We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
Article |

The Doctor-Patient Relationship and Malpractice Lessons From Plaintiff Depositions

Howard B. Beckman, MD; Kathryn M. Markakis, MD; Anthony L. Suchman, MD; Richard M. Frankel, PhD
Arch Intern Med. 1994;154(12):1365-1370. doi:10.1001/archinte.1994.00420120093010.
Text Size: A A A
Published online


Background:  The current literature does not provide an answer to the question, "What prompts patients to sue doctors or hospitals?" Not all adverse outcomes result in suits, and threatened suits do not always involve adverse outcomes. The exploration of other factors has been hampered by the lack of a methodology to contact plaintiffs and elicit their views about their experience in delivered health care. This study employed the transcripts of discovery depositions of plaintiffs as a source of insight into the issues that prompted individuals to file a malpractice claim.

Methods:  This study is a descriptive series review of a convenience sample of 45 plaintiffs' depositions selected randomly from 67 depositions made available from settled malpractice suits filed between 1985 and 1987 against a large metropolitan medical center. Information extracted from each deposition included the alleged injury; the presence of the question, "Why are you suing?" and, if present, the answer; the presence of problematic relationship issues between providers and patients and/or families and, if present, the discourse supporting it; the presence of the question, "Did a health professional suggest maloccurrence?" and, if yes, who. Using a process of consensual validation, relationship issues were organized into groups of more generalized categories suggested by the data. Answers to the questions, "Why are you suing?" and "Who suggested maloccurrence?" are described.

Results:  Problematic relationship issues were identified in 71% of the depositions with an interrater reliability of 93.3%. Four themes emerged from the descriptive review of the 3787 pages of transcript: deserting the patient (32%), devaluing patient and/or family views (29%), delivering information poorly (26%), and failing to understand the patient and/or family perspective (13%). Thirty-one plaintiffs were asked if health professionals suggested maloccurrence. Fifty-four percent (n=17) responded affirmatively. The postoutcome-consulting specialist was named in 71% (n=12) of the depositions in which maloccurrence was allegedly suggested.

Conclusions:  In our sample, the decision to litigate was often associated with a perceived lack of caring and/or collaboration in the delivery of health care. The issues identified included perceived unavailability, discounting patient and/or family concerns, poor delivery of information, and lack of understanding the patient and/or family perspective. Particular attention should be paid to the postadverse-event consultant-patient interaction.(Arch Intern Med. 1994;154:1365-1370)


Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?





Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

240 Citations

Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.