Week 2 – How not to get sued.
Last week..well over a week ago actually (oops) I wrote the GMC coming in and telling us how not to get sacked. This week the uni has given us some lectures on how not to get sued. This was in the form of a medical law lecture given by a man who in my opinion looks like a Koala. He is an ex QC (veryyy well paid barrister that fought on behalf of claimants v the NHS) who has become Catholic priest. I was absolutely shocked that a lawyer of his ability had given up his career to become a priest, I suppose though if you hear the calling or whatever it is that happens then.. fair enough. The fact that he was wearing a tailored suit that looked like it cost more than I earn in a year did make me question how seriously he had taken his vow of poverty.. Anyway, this fella travels all over the country lecturing medical students on how not to fall into the traps that he used during his career to make the NHS and private medical companies pay out millions of pounds in compensation. I spoke to him at the end of the lecture and found out he was based just south of Durham, yet gave lectures to medical students at London medical schools.
More than one of my colleagues found the lecture…well.. boring, but I loved it. I did Law to A-level and really seriously considered taking it to degree level, and if it hadn’t been for the huge gap between the number of graduates and the numbers of available jobs I think I would have done. I still remember the disappointed look on my Law teachers face when I told him I was going to do medicine instead of law at uni (in the end I did neither of course…well, until now.. I’m going off topic).
The gist of the lecture is that doctors are special. You see, every other profession in a negligence case is judged against what a reasonable member of that profession did.. so for example if you were suing a plumber for flooding your house, to prove that he was negligent (and hence owed you a new house) you would have to prove that a reasonable plumber would not have done what he did in the position he was in. This will be made much more complicated by the fact that both the defence and the “prosecution” will have “expert” witnesses that will argue that the defendant did or did not act in a reasonable manner. It then falls to the judge to decide which of them is right and which of them is wrong. For doctors it’s different. All a doctor has to do to be cleared of negligence in a civil court is prove that the actions he took would have been taken by a “competent minority” of specialists. In other words, if a small number of specialists in your field would have taken the same action as you (it doesn’t even have to be GMC guidelines, if you followed the guidelines you’re untouchable) then you were not negligent and therefore can’t be sued. Isn’t that nice? It also makes the job of the judge much easier, and the job of the lawyers much harder.
Still, every doctor has to take out mal-practice insurance, you know, just in case we really try hard to fuck somebody up. There are obviously other ways that a doctor can be sued, but I didn’t want to go through all of them.
What else has happened in the last week…? Hmm
Oh, I had some time on the wards again this week, which was nice.. something that I had really missed was spending time with patients. It’s a shame though, I didn’t really see anything interesting this week as I was just on the respiratory ward, but it was good to get back into the swing of things. I don’t think I’d realised how rusty my history taking skills had become in the few weeks they weren’t being used!
One thing that I have already noticed about this semester is that the workload has increased dramatically already. I am already behind where I would normally want to be at this point, which is starting to worry me a little bit if I’m honest. I did no work at all last weekend because I was so worn out from the first week back, but this weekend I really do need to get my head down and catch up with all the stuff I didn’t finish this week because this week I have been doing last weeks work.
Just to end.. someone told me today that in 12 weeks we will have finished our exams. I have 24 modules to learn before then.