Why do doctors get sued so much compared to other professionals? One major reason is the way that a doctor treats his or her “customers” compared to say how a lawyer treats his or her customers. When you go to a doctor, you are going to someone who enjoys the benefits of a government enforced monopoly to a much greater degree than is the case with lawyers. Also the supply of lawyers relative to the need for them is such that a lawyer who doesn’t treat his or her “customers” as they so wish to be treated isn’t going to be in practice very long. However with doctors the “supply” of doctors is controlled in such a manner that “demand” exceeds the supply by a considerable margin. Also due to the way that doctors are paid for their services by a “third party” is different than the way that most other professionals are paid. And while there is “legal insurance”, it exists on a far smaller scale than medical insurance does. The patient’s insurance often decides what doctors can be seen by the patient because the insurance company only will pay if the patient sees certain doctors first. Often a reference from a “primary care” doctor is required in order to see a specialist. This also means that the patient has far less “choice” than would be the case if the individual in question was seeing a lawyer instead of a doctor. Additionally outside of issues of criminal law, the individual can themselves do a number of more simple things without having to first see a lawyer. One of these is filing a lawsuit in “small claims court”. Another is making out a will. There are also “service packages” for the more simple legal issues. Whereas in medicine, with the exception of “over the counter” medications, everything else requires getting a doctor’s “prescription” in order to purchase even those medical drugs that are not subject to abuse by drug addicts. Prior to 1938, this was not the case except for narcotics. People usually went to their neighborhood druggist for help with an illness and only went to a doctor as a “last resort”. It should also be noted at this time that women often had their babies at home, not in a hospital. Also it was not uncommon to have a “midwife” assist in delivery instead of a doctor due to cost.
Among professional educations, medicine is probably the most expensive. It also in turn pays the most on the average for the professions. Government enforced monopoly gives doctors more power and control over their “patients” than the other professions do over their clients. The high incomes of medical professionals “paints a target” on their backs, while their treatment of their patients is of a different sort than what people experience with members of the other professions. The role of insurance companies also has an effect in that patients have less “choice” when dealing with doctors than other professionals. In effect the “patient” has less power with doctors thanks to prescription laws. If these laws didn’t exist, the doctor/patient relationship would be considerably different than what it is. The doctor’s role would be more one of an “advisor” to the patient similar to the role played by other professionals. Of course without the power over the patient granted by prescription laws, the patient would have considerably more power to make decisions. Decisions that the doctor might not agree with, but would have no power to prevent.
While the doctor may think he or she has the patient’s best interests at heart, the patient may have a different opinion. Since the patient has no power to demand that his or her opinions should be primary, there is an aspect of the doctor/patient relationship that is in fact one where the doctor’s opinions, not the patient’s, are what decides the issue here. This creates a conflict, makes the patient angry, and may eventually make the patient think of “getting even”. Especially today when there is a “surplus” of lawyers ready and eager to file a lawsuit for anything their client might want. And given that the definition of “malpractice” can be almost anything the lawyer can find to have grounds to file a lawsuit, the US medical profession is finding out that being a doctor today isn’t what it used to be…
Of course doctors could change their attitudes, which would also go a long ways towards resolving the “malpractice crisis”, but that involves a major change in the entire ideology of medicine. One of treating their patients much differently than what they presently do. Of course, should prescription laws be repealed, they will have little choice but to change.