From Doctor to Defendant: Our Schedule is No Longer Our Own (Part 3 of 4)

STRESS SOMETIMES DISTORTS WHAT WE SAY. Do not hesitate to clarify misunderstandings. Our judgment that we are conveying our thoughts successfully may be vastly off the mark. The attorney may get a picture of what happened that is vastly different than the one we intended to convey. It is prudent to ask our attorneys to summarize for us their understanding of what we said. We should then immediately correct any misperceptions or misinterpretations. Uncorrected distortions have a long half-life and linger on, breeding further distortions.

The Aftermath - DistressThe time spent defending a medical malpractice lawsuit is never convenient or predictable and we can never get it back. Although it causes unrecoverable economic losses, its greatest impact is the time permanently lost to patient care. Conscious of our time constraints, we may be tempted to resist spending any more of it by responding to our attorneys’ requests for information or documents. We may be tempted to use delaying tactics, claiming to be too busy to respond or playing hard to get in scheduling depositions and meetings. We may not realize that we are acting out our anger by being late for depositions or other legal meetings.

We are also irritated by the seemingly casual way in which lawyers view time. We respond as quickly as possible to the demands of patients; they seem to respond to their clients when it fits their schedule and timetable. We have some control over the scheduling of our office hours and procedures, and we resent it when depositions and review sessions appear to accommodate somebody else's schedule rather than our own. We conduct the examination, the operation, or the consultation as scheduled and on time and then they are done; delays and set-overs are the norm in the legal process. Motions and rulings are "continued," as if they were incidental rather than vital events in our case, leaving us adrift in an unfamiliar dimension. We cancel our schedule to give a deposition, only to learn that it is canceled because one of the attorneys is delayed in court.

We mark our calendar to go to trial, only to have the court date rescheduled because the judge is away at a seminar. We go to trial with no certain knowledge of whether it will take two days or a week. Rather than endure endless frustration and grumbling, we serve ourselves and our cause best by accepting philosophically the legal world's attitudes toward time, knowing, as one doctor remarked, "that there was a finite amount of time that I was going to be involved in this.”

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