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November 27, 1991

Malpractice Suit Emotional Trauma

Author Affiliations

Wayne State University Detroit, Mich

Wayne State University Detroit, Mich

JAMA. 1991;266(20):2834. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470200046029

To the Editor.  —We recently conducted a random mail survey of Michigan State Medical Society members to gauge the emotional impact of malpractice suits. A total of 2210 questionnaires were sent statewide. Data were analyzed from 746 fully completed forms, giving a response rate of 33.8%. Of the respondents, 64.5% had experienced at least one lawsuit; 11.1% of physicians who had been sued admitted to increased alcohol use or self-medication with narcotics, anxiolytics, or antidepressants. A majority of the physicians who had experienced malpractice action (54%) indicated that their ability to care for patients had been significantly altered as a result of being sued. While 31.4% felt a sense of relief talking about their experiences related to malpractice action, only 6.8% admitted to seeing a mental health professional as a result of malpractice-related emotional trauma.Emotional trauma resulting from malpractice suits is now an epidemic with adverse consequences for both