Friday, August 14th, 2020

P Publisher’s Point by Jean Loxley-Barnard


When we really need a doctor, we really need a doctor. The good news is that we get a doctor. Even when our need comes at 3 in the morning and it is pouring rain, a doctor leaves his warm bed to come to see to our needs. It's no small thing.

Those who note that the doctor will make good money to do so are not always correct. And, by the way, how much would we want to be paid to get out of our warm beds and go to the ER at 3 in the morning? And again the next night and the next.

We all use the saying you get what you pay for and I think that is usually true. Usually, when doctors make good money, they've earned it. But, even when it appears to us that they've overcharged, they have an unusual hitch to making good money - it's all at considerable risk.

How would we feel if we needed insurance
to just keep working and it cost us six figures?

Any one of us at any moment can catch a commercial that screams to us that some lawyer can get money, money, money for us if some doctor hasn't magically cured our every ache. Yes, this is an exaggeration. But it rings a bell of recognition, doesn't it.

Our health insurance at The Shopper just went up about 30% and everyone feels it and, since the company pays half, I feel it multiplied. But how would we feel if we needed insurance to just keep working and it cost us six figures?

I've been addressing the cost in dollars, but there are other costs to both doctors and patients and companies that provide assistance with health insurance. Imagine how we would feel if periodically we were sued by someone we had really tried to help.

I make mistakes in my work; I expect you do also. We apologize, make it up to our client, who almost always is more than gracious about it, and we go forward. You too? Not so with doctors. A doctor can make a small, common mistake, even after doing fourteen tests to guard against it, and find out that someone whose life he or she saved wants a million dollars to compensate for a week of discomfort and a year of worrying that they might not get the whole million. Yes, again I exaggerate. Again, does it ring a bell of recognition?

Do I even need to say that not one of us or our doctors thinks that a bad physician should get away with real negligence? If we could get hold of this insanity of litigation, maybe doctors would be able to police themselves.

Right now our doctors are in despair. Let's think about that. All the men and women who have taken care of us all these years when we needed them are in despair. We can't just sit back and let that continue. Selfishly, I don't want my doctors to retire or decide to have another career. How about you? It is at that point. Let's find a way to help them.

Ironically, the doctors have all the power; they have always had the power. All they've ever had to do is work together. But they are such individualists. The very strengths which have made them effective physicians have also precluded their working together. They are also ethical. They could bring everyone to their knees simply by agreeing to take a vacation at the same time. Ethically they can't do that. They can't leave town without having arranged for someone else to take care of us. Many of the things they could do they won't do because they have such strong ethics - the very thing they are accused of not having in suit after suit. Catch 22.

Right now our doctors are in despair.

I know what it takes to get an M.D. and be an M.D., at least from the point of view of the doctor's wife. I was married to a surgeon from undergraduate school through medical school, internship, residency, setting up practice and decades more. Yes there was a good income in the end, but only after years of struggle and sacrifice. There's much more than money involved. No child's birthday or Thanksgiving dinner or social event was ever really free from interruption or threat of interruption. No vacation was free of stress on the first or last few days of leaving or anticipating return.

We've all paid a doctor a hundred dollars at some point for 5 minutes of his or her time. It's easy to picture him putting that hundred in his pocket. It's easy to forget the fortune it cost them to become a doctor over many years when they made little or no money. Once fully trained, they get to rent an office, purchase expensive equipment, hire any number of people, buy a phone system and a cell phone, hire an answering service . . . we've got it. But did we remember that six figure malpractice insurance?

They could bring everyone to their knees
simply by agreeing to take a vacation at the same time.
Ethically they can't do that.

So what can we do? We can really study the problem, listen to all sides, pay attention. We can write to our representatives; we can be responsible patients, jurors, citizens. We can also write to or speak to our doctors and just let them know we do care. We can say thank you!

Note: Our medical issue is in July and we will address this concern more fully. May is our legal issue, as it was last year. The attorneys we told you about were the cream of the crop: John Brown, Christie and Kantor, Jim Roy, Joe Waldo and others. Doctors and lawyers don't always agree on how to solve this growing problem, but a solution needs to be found soon.

Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 39 years.