September 24, 2008
Lawyer To Docs
By Brubaker, Jack
Dr. A makes mistake during medical procedure, leaving patient with partial paralysis of right arm. Dr. A. does not admit mistake and refuses to discuss it with patient. Dr. B. makes similar mistake with similar result to patient's arm. Dr. B. admits error, says he's sorry and perhaps even offers to compensate patient for related costs.
Which physician is more likely to be sued for malpractice?
A local lawyer who represents many doctors in malpractice cases has written a book about why all doctors should be Dr. B.
Jim Saxton, chairman of the health litigation group of the Stevens & Lee law firm and president of the Lancaster YMCA Foundation Board, will talk about the advantages of being Dr. B at the YMCA's 7th annual Pathfinders Luncheon this week.
The title of his talk is the title of his new book, "Sorry Works!"
The primary point of the book is that if more doctors empathized with their patients' adverse medical outcomes, malpractice suits could be reduced dramatically.
"It's important 100 percent of the time to show empathy, to say you're sorry," the attorney says. "It makes a bad situation a little bit better."
Saying you're sorry is not an admission of guilt, Saxton says. It is a way to substitute a human process for the legal process.
Saxton intends to tell his "Y" audience that saying you are sorry for bad outcomes works in all facets of life.
"Instead of getting mad, or quitting your job, or running away from home or a relationship," he says, "we need to be more empathetic to other people's feelings."
Saxton has been working on this concept for a decade. He knows that trying to calm the malpractice waters may reduce his business, but he believes it's "the right thing to do."
The attorney travels around the country explaining his idea to doctors. At one of these meetings he met Doug Wojcieszak, a public relations consultant from St. Louis who created the Sorry Works Coalition.
The coalition promotes the idea Saxton supports.
With the help of Maggie Finkelstein, one of Saxton's Stevens & Lee colleagues, Saxton and Wojcieszak collaborated on "Sorry Works!"
They published the $19.95 paperback through AuthorHouse. The self- published book is available through the publisher's Web site and at Stevens & Lee's local office at 51 S. Duke St.
Saxton also will sign books at the YMCA luncheon for Pathfinders, a group of longtime "Y" members and supporters.
The public luncheon will be held Thursday, from noon to 1:30 p.m., at the F&M Alumni Sports & Fitness Center's Woods Room. Details are available from Beth Grossman at the YMCA, 397-7474.
Saxton says experience proves that doctors who are proactive and work with patients who have suffered negative results avoid lawsuits.
Physicians in the Central Pennsylvania Risk Retention Group report fewer malpractice lawsuits, he says, because they take the "Sorry Works" concept seriously.
Physicians throughout the country have reported similar results.
The key to everything, Saxton and his book conclude, is "good customer service."
In the medical arena, the book says, "when doctors, hospitals and insurance companies focus on their patients and families with excellent customer service and forget about trial lawyers, the courts and politicians, it can bring an end to the medical malpractice crisis."
That same message is important for society in general to hear, Saxton says.
"Do we as a society want to continue to fight with each other? he asks. "Shouldn't we have a way to sort things out ourselves?"
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