#27: When You Get Sued with Laura Fortner, MD

This episode we talk with Dr. Laura Fortner, an OB/Gyn, about medical malpractice, the distress associated with it, some statistics, and how physicians can get support if needed.


  • Statistics:
    • Average malpractice cases last around 5 years
    • ~75% of primary care will get sued
    • ~99% of surgical specialties will get sued
    • Most cases don't go to trial
    • The ones that do go to trial are usually won by the physician
  • Biggest myths surrounding MedMal:
    • you cannot talk about it
    • it's normal to be sued (see statistics above)
  • Definitions:
    • Litigation stress is intrusive thoughts, buffering behaviors, taking things out on spouses, etc, but still going about your day. Around 95% of physicians get this.
    • Medical Malpractice Stress Syndrome is in the DSM! It a depressive state characterized by depression, anxiety, and apathy.
  • Common reactions to being sued:
    • wanting to quit medicine
    • feeling alone and isolated
    • second guessing your decisions
    • equating this with some judgement about yourself as a doctor or a human
    • avoiding feelings about the situation
  • Helpful charting tips:
    • Include your differential and plan
    • Inlcude "not limited to" for risk/benefit discussions
  • The number one reason people sue is they think something has been hidden or they were not told everything about what happened and why.
    • So be honest, empathetic and open about complications
    • Patient's want to heard - so LISTEN way more than you talk when there is a complication
  • If you get sued, DO NOT to a chart review or even look up related topics on Up To Date from the work computer. Everything is electronically time stamped on these systems. If you must do a Google search, do it from your home computer.
  • If you get sued today:
    • Don't look at the chart until your lawyer talks to you and has a copy
    • Don't read the language in what you're served - your lawyer will help you
    • Write down the caring advice you'd give a best friend in this situation and carry it around with you. Give yourself this same advice.
    • Repeat as often as you need: "It's okay to be sued. It's normal to be sued."
    • Go to for more information. There is a free mini-course and group coaching classes available. It isn't reportable, can be very anonymous, and most importantly, can give you the support you likely need in this stressful time.


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