Terra Sigillata

Via Berci Meskó at Science Roll, I learned that the medblogger-formerly-known-as Flea has just given his first detailed interview since shutting down his blog during his pediatric malpractice case. Fellow physician, Orac, had a characteristically complete commentary on the situation that included the admonition not to blog about one’s own ongoing malpractice trial. I also recall being shocked at the time that Flea would make off-color comments about the plaintiff attorney’s bedroom habits.

In his interview on Eric Turkewitz’s New York Personal Injury Law Blog, Dr Robert “Flea” Lindeman details the additional pain incurred by a lawsuit that drags on for five years after one loses a kid one has cared for:

I was under a tremendous amount of stress. This patient’s catastrophic death struck me and everyone else involved in his care as a complete and utter surprise. I had been trying to help this boy, and he suddenly and unexpectedly died. Never, until the moment the process server showed up in my new office, did it occur to me that what I had and had not done could be construed as malpractice. When I opened the envelope and read these things about my being “negligent, careless, and without skill”, I picked up the phone and called my personal lawyer. I thought I was being accused of manslaughter. I had suffered the loss of a patient and now I was being accused of having killed him, or so I thought.

My lawyer calmly explained that I was being sued for malpractice, not manslaughter and advised me to call my malpractice carrier. I put the envelope in my top drawer and went in to see my first patient of the day. My new practice had been open for two months.

Over the next five years I managed to forget I was being sued for long enough to get through the day and take care of patients the best I could. As the trial date approached I felt increasingly isolated and anxious. I felt as though this story, and the story of malpractice litigation in general, is one that ordinary folks have never heard and doctors are reluctant to tell. I believed that the anonymity would shield me. I know what you’re saying to yourself now. Like I said, I was under a tremendous amount of stress. I’ve been told that stressed-out people do dumb things from time to time.

Lindeman has other advice for medical bloggers and fellow physicians being sued for malpractice. But what is clear from the interview is that we shouldn’t ever expect Flea back in the blogosphere:

Q: You had an award-winning blog because you had something to say and you wrote well. What are your thoughts on returning to the blogosphere?

Thanks for the compliment. Almost every day I see something or read something that makes me absolutely want to howl. I almost immediately compose a blog post in my head. And there it remains. Why? Because if I ever blog again my wife will kill me. Then she’ll divorce me. And I’m obviously not the smartest physician in the world, but I ain’t that dumb.

And while this is a tongue-in-cheek response, Lindeman’s anguish over the pain he caused the family of the dead boy and other families in his practice is truly sobering.

Read the full interview here.

Hat tip: Science Roll

Comments

  1. #1 isles
    January 23, 2008

    I miss Flea’s blog. He could certainly be obstinate about certain issues, but in the main I appreciated his zeal for correctness.

  2. #2 Shaheen Lakhan
    February 22, 2008

    Sometimes, if a mistake is made, it is best to just come forward in advance and let the patient know. Dr. JC from the GNIF Brain Blogger reports that many medical malpractice lawsuits are filled just to get physician’s “time and attention.”

    Thanks for reporting on this issue. Flea had a pretty good blog.

    Sincerely,
    Shaheen

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