Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Trial Bar Cavalry Charge

General George Patton

One of the maxims lawyers tell each other is, "Never ask a witness a question unless you already know what the answer will be." The concept might well be extended to program chairmen when they invite speakers, as the following story will illustrate.

The Right Angle Club recently heard from a lawyer who had formerly been a cavalry commander, and who slid into the General George Patton manner while addressing an audience about the malpractice crisis. Or, as he described it, the so-called crisis. I make my living by suing people, he started, so I got out pen and pencil to take it down. My careful notes indicate he started by saying the medical malpractice crisis does not and never did exist. Every verdict you ever heard of was won by the defendant because the public relations battle has been won by the insurance companies. There was more in like vein, but this is sufficient.

It was of course not the first time I have talked with a malpractice trial lawyer, and many of them are quite reasonable people who feel they are performing a needed service in an honorable way. In the past, however, both doctors and lawyers have maintained icy civility and careful adjectives in these conversations, doing their best to behave like diplomats representing warring parties

Originally published: Monday, June 02, 2008; most-recently modified: Friday, June 07, 2019