The Madison County Record Mar. 30, 2013, 9:57am

You’re attending a public function of some kind – a lecture, a concert, a graduation ceremony – and suddenly there’s a commotion somewhere in the audience in front of you. A man has collapsed and a small crowd has gathered around him, glancing down with looks of concern.

After agonizing moments, one of the onlookers calls out: “Is there a doctor in the house?”

“I’m a doctor,” someone answers as he approaches, kneeling down and doing what he can to revive and comfort the victim until an ambulance arrives to transport him to the hospital for a thorough examination.

If you’re relatively young, you may have seen a scene like this only in the movies. If you’re over 50, you’ve probably seen it in real life – but not in a long time.

Doctors used to rush to the rescue when someone fell ill or was injured in public and needed immediate medical attention. They even stopped at automobile accidents on the highway to help out until the EMTs arrived.

Not anymore. Nowadays, you can call out “Is there a doctor in the house?” at an AMA convention and no one probably will answer.

Many a doctor today is afraid to treat his own patients. That’s because there’s no telling when someone is going to second-guess his decisions and hit him with a lawsuit alleging malpractice.

“Did Dr. Howard order a moronectomy? No? He should have.”

“Did Dr. Fine prescribe imbecillin? Yes? He shouldn’t have.”

Dr. Jose Diaz, Jr. of Highland is familiar with this unfortunate phenomenon. He had to stand trial twice because the ex-husband of one of his patients decided to second-guess his judgment and sue him for malpractice. Madison County jurors acquitted Diaz both times, but the ordeal dragged on for eight years.

We won’t be surprised if the doctor’s fees rise to cover increased insurance costs – and the fear of future lawsuits takes a toll on his bedside manner.


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