I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink. The focus was the “adaptive unconscious” i.e. our everyday mental processes that work rapidly and automatically from relatively little information. Gladwell discussed the pros and cons of this type of thinking. Unfortunately, the book was little more than examples of how our adaptive unconscious manifests itself with few useful takeaways.
As a trial lawyer however, I was interested in Gladwell’s discussion of how the adaptive unconscious relates to claims of medical malpractice. The bottom line is that patients are more likely to pursue malpractice actions against doctors that they do not like on a personal level. This idea was more fully flushed out in a 2000 study conducted by Philip Moore, Nancy Adler and Patricia Robertson that you can read here.
The conclusion of the study was that:
“Positive doctor-patient relations increased obstetric patients' perceptions of physician competence, decreased their perceptions of physician responsibility for an adverse medical outcome, and reduced their expressed intentions to file malpractice claims against both the physician and the hospital.”
Even more compelling was the finding that “Outcome severity affected only expressed malpractice intentions toward the hospital.” This means that very severe (catastrophic) outcomes only affected patients’ intentions to sue the hospital, not the doctor.
The obvious advice here is for doctors to strive to interact positively with their patients as “bed side manner” directly correlates with the likelihood of malpractice actions.
The less obvious but equally important advice is for medical malpractice lawyers and plaintiffs. Lawyers and plaintiffs need to take a closer look at their cases. Medical malpractice lawsuits should be filed because there is merit to the case and not to facilitate a patient’s vendetta.
I believe that personal injury lawsuits, including medical malpractice cases, can lead to positive change. The key, however, is that the lawsuits undertaken are just and imperative. Unfounded lawsuits stigmatize plaintiffs and their lawyers and detract from the critically necessary process of personal injury litigation. Share this post :