The Practice of Uncertainty: Voices of Physicians and Patients in Medical Malpractice Claims

By Stephen L. Fielding | Go to book overview
Save to active project


The claimants emphasized how they regarded medicine as a business rather than as a humanistic undertaking. They did not feel that their physicians were receptive to them as people and they felt marginalized-- that the personal and social concerns related to their medical problems were pushed to the periphery. Yet many claimants continued to be deferential toward their physicians in spite of the fact that they had a distrust of their physicians or that they had sued them.

The physicians described medicine as fraught with frustration. Their time demands and workload pressures made it difficult to spend adequate social time with patients. The threat of malpractice affected the physicians profoundly since they saw patients as potential threats. The resulting distrust encouraged the physicians to practice defensive medicine, which was seen as insurance against future claims.

It is clear that both physicians and claimants felt that factors hindering the establishment of meaningful communication were at work. The reasons for this feeling varied between physicians and claimants because of their differing experiences of medicine. Certainly physicians needed adequate time and the willingness to listen to patients talk about how their social lives were related to their medical conditions--what Elliott Mishler refers to as their voice of the lifeworld--in order to improve relations with their patients. 17

By understanding the anxieties and social contexts of their patients, physicians could gain important information that could improve diagnosis and treatment. Good communication and relationships do more than make each party feel good. Evidence shows that the quality of the physician-patient relationship affects the outcome of disease among patients with ulcers, breast cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. 18 For example, some researchers have found that patient-physician relationships characterized by more patient control, more physician affect, and more information provided by the physician are associated with a better health status of the patients at follow-ups. In their review of the literature, L.N.L. Ong and his colleagues reported several findings that more information from physicians improved patient satisfaction, as did expressions of affective behavior such as listening, eye contact, and discussion. 19 In addition, patients are less likely to sue physicians with whom they have good rapport, all other things being equal. The importance of a good bedside manner is documented also in a study by Gerald Hickson and his colleagues. 20 They found that the physicians in Florida who had the most malpractice claims were also the most likely to have patients who complained about feeling rushed, not receiving explanations regarding test results, and being ignored. Overall, the patients in their


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Practice of Uncertainty: Voices of Physicians and Patients in Medical Malpractice Claims


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 234

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?