Losing at the Lottery: Physician Perceptions of the Legal Environment
Legal tensions profoundly affect physicians' ethical conduct in everyday medical practice. To comprehend this dynamic, one must begin with some understanding of physician attitudes toward their own legal risks. These attitudes are best summed up as a professional ethos of zero legal risk tolerance, reinforced continually by an almost "Pavlovian hostility toward [the] law" ( Williams & Winslade, 1995, p. 783). Physicians' view of the universe as a scary and dangerous legal place for them and their patients has become such a commonplace and automatic assumption ( Ferguson, 1993; Wolter, 1993) that I half expect tomorrow's newspapers to trumpet the discovery of an "anti-lawyer" gene that predisposes carriers to pursue medical careers.
Repeatedly and vigorously, physicians indicate that their primary anxiety about legal system entanglement is fear of the traumatic experience of being civilly sued for malpractice, 1 an event which they interpret as a deeply personal and intimate, yet simultaneously an embarrassingly public affront against their very integrity and worth as professionals and as people. In terms of the psychological and financial