One Anesthesia Provider’s Nightmare Comes True

Anesthesiologist Being Sued

It’s the moment we all hope to avoid in our anesthesia career. A case that goes badly and results in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Fortunately, many of us have not gone through this process, unfortunately no one ever talks about their experience of going through it. There are valuable lessons that can be shared from those who have experienced this nerve-wracking ordeal.

By our nature as anesthesia providers we always want to be prepared. You might not ever see MH, but sure know what to look for and how to treat it. Why not the same with being served a malpractice lawsuit?

We were lucky enough to connect with a clinician who recently received notice that they were part of a malpractice lawsuit. It’s only been a few months since they were informed, but they let us take a peek into what’s happened so far. 

Since this is an active case we have to keep the identity of the anonymous and cannot disclose any details of the actual event. How did you find out?

Clinician: Before I even received the notice. I just knew. I just had a feeling this was going to lead to something. My mother-in-law was at the house and told me a letter had arrived for me.

I took one look at the names of the people sending it to me and I knew right away what it was. It was a notice of intent to file a malpractice claim. What did you do after receiving the letter?

Clinician: I was working through a national company at the time. Which is fortunate because they have their own team to handle these situations. I can’t imagine doing it all on my own without having this support system. 

I contacted them as soon as I received the letter. But even before I received the letter, I had already given them a heads up that there was an incident right after it happened. And that’s really important because some staffing agencies have it in their contract that if you don’t notify them, they will not cover you. Where are you now in this process?

Clinician: I am already in contact with my lawyer and we’re in the beginning of the discovery phase. They are obviously asking about the case, but also questions about my license, credentialing, the cases I have done in the hospital and things along those lines. Have they discussed anything about a deposition yet?

Clinician: Only that they’ll send people out here to train me for the deposition. We’ll go over how to answer questions, what to say and how to say it. But nothing so far about a date or place. I know you are just in the beginning of the process, but is there any advice you can pass on from what you learned so far?

Clinician: Trust your gut and write it down. We are all taught how to chart so you can go back anytime and review what happened. And it becomes a fine line on charting too much and not enough. There were a lot of small things that I did, but did not chart them. I wish I would have, like checked carotid pulse or felt the breath on my wrist. All things I did, however it’s not on the record.

So take time after the case and write down everything that occurred leading up to the event, the event and what happened afterwards. Also, write it down for your own sanity.

Keep an IPad or journal by your night stand.* At some point, you are going to wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to go back asleep because you are thinking about the case. Write it down to get it out of your head. 

No one ever talked to me about what to expect if you’re ever served a malpractice lawsuit. I just hope the little information I shared can help someone else if they’re ever put in this terrible experience.

*Important note: Any written notes you keep surrounding the event can be subpoenaed by lawyers. Journal entries about how you are feeling can not. To view more information on this topic and how to protect your notes surrounding the case watch this video.

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