For the last four years, I’ve had this court case hanging over my head. Now, despite the fact that this incarnation of Balls and Walnuts is not open to search engine spiders, I probably ought to be careful what I say. No names, for example. But the circumstances were plain enough: I was named as one of the defendants because my name appeared on the chart, not because I actually did anything to the patient.
Well, that was part of the problem — they said I should have done something. But I was in the OR when I got called (yeah, that’s the connection — the ER doc wrote in the chart that I’d been called and was unavailable). My patient was under anesthesia, and we had a policy stating that we MDs were responsible for patients under anesthesia, since our hospital had no supervising MD anesthesiologist. So if we buy the plaintiff’s argument, I should have abandoned my patient to respond to the call.
We prevailed. No money from yours truly. The case dragged on until jury selection was completed, and then the plaintiff settled with the other parties, and the case against me was dismissed with prejudice.
I expected some sort of catharsis, and it never came. Not even a sigh of relief. Perhaps it was because this whole game of will-they-settle, won’t-they-settle had persisted for the entire week, and indeed, had gone on for months before that. Or perhaps it was because, like so many such things (see: Santa Rosa), I take this shit way too personally. By the time the decision came down, I was already sleep-deprived and more stressed out than I’d been in a good long time. My sleep pattern, never what you would call normal, had become aberrant in the extreme (unless you’re my son, in which case, my sleeping pattern had become quite natural, thank you very much). My lawyer will never know how lucky he was that I never took the stand. God only knows what I would have babbled.
So, I’m home now. I’ve been home for the past 10 days, and I keep thinking, “Get over it already. Write a damn blog or something.” And here we are.
By the way: after the first day, I called my wife to tell her how different this was from Law & Order-type courtroom dramas. “Nothing is dramatic,” I told her. “It’s all terribly predictable, and in fact, everything seems designed to be boring.” Then the very next day, something dramatic happened: some anonymous person turned in to the hospital some stuff he or she had printed out from the internet. The plaintiff had done the social media thing, blabbing about this very case, dropping names etc. The surprising thing is, this seemed to change very little about the case — she has her right to say whatever she wants to say, after all. But was this a bit of unexpected drama? You bet.
Weird. It would even have been interesting, this experience, had I not been one of the worms writhing on the hook.