One of the things that we naturally want to do after something crazy happens in the OR is share our experience with our coworkers. But when it comes to a real adverse event where there might be a lawsuit down the line, should we be discussing what happened? Are there certain people that we can talk to about the event? Can these conversations be subpoenaed?
We asked Dr Dearmin, the founder of Thrive, these questions and are glad we did. Many of us of been placing ourselves and tangling up our coworkers in possible uncomfortable legal situations.
According to Dr Dearmin, first reach out to your risk manager if you have one. This could be risk management for the hospital, your anesthesia staffing company or both. The next call is to your medical malpractice carrier to let them know there’s been an event that you’re concerned about. Whether or not this results in a blawsuit down the road, it’s good for them to be in the loop right from the beginning.
Lastly, speak with whoever you directly report to. Maybe it’s your department chair or medical director to fill them in on what’s going on. Realize any person you talk to at work about what happened or medical decisions made can be legally subpoenaed. So limit it to only the people that need to be involved in the post management of the event.
So where does this leave M&Ms?
Dr Dearmin says M&Ms are considered a safe environment, which typically means a legally protected conversation. In other words, it can’t be subpoenaed and the conversation can’t be discovered down the road in the event of a malpractice lawsuit. This is a place where you can discuss with other anesthesia providers what happened, your decisions, and what can be learned from it without fear of legal repercussions.
Your Feelings and Legal Discovery
You may also want to talk with somebody about how you’re feeling. That you’re feeling afraid or ashamed or wondering if you ever should have gone into anesthesiology to begin with.
Those are very normal feelings and questions to ask.
“I would suggest that you carefully decide who to talk about this piece of things with also.” Dr Dearmin adds, “Expressing those feelings can be done with a spouse, a clergy person, or your own physician or psychologist. Those are all legally protected relationships.”
You might also have a colleague whose opinion you particularly value or a mentor that you really trust to be supportive. This is someone you can go to and share what you are experiencing as well according to Dr. Dearmin but you should not share any medical details or decision making, it will not be protected legally from a subpoena.
It’s natural to want to share your experience and you should just for mental well being. However the key is to be aware of who you are having the conversation with and what details you’re divulging. Remembering this should help mitigate and protect yourself and peers if you are unfortunately ever served a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice.