Surgeon Meets Malpractice Attorney
What do you get if you cross an medical malpractice attorney with a surgeon?
In Scalpel, a novel by Dr. Joel Berman, you get a dead medical malpractice attorney â€“ in fact, several of them. Bermanâ€™s main character â€“ who, Berman insists, is not his alter ego — is a mysterious surgeon who is tired of attorneys who relentlessly pursue medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors who have done nothing wrong. The attorneys stop at nothing to ruin the careers and lives of their victims.
One surgeon, whose wife committed suicide because she was hounded by a medical malpractice attorney, decides to fight back. Heâ€™s committed to reintroducing justice into the systemâ€”but his own kind of justice, administered in his own way.
Malpractice attorneys begin to turn up dead. Each one is uniquely executedâ€”and surgically altered in bizarre and disturbing ways. There are no fingerprints and no blood. Few clues are left behind. Usable evidence is sparse. And the killer, as he contemplates what heâ€™s accomplished, silently dedicates each murder to the memory of his beloved wife. The police detective assigned to this case, Septimus â€œMacâ€? McClymonds, soon confirms that he is in a battle of wits with a most unusual and highly intelligent serial killer.
Scalpel is a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of medical malpractice and how it affects physicians. Interestingly, Scalpelâ€™s author is Dr. Berman, a distinguished physician who serves as chief of surgery at his hospital, a director of a Center for Breast Care, and an Associate Professor of Surgery at USC Medical Center.
Dr. Berman says, â€œBeing sued, whether reasonably or not, often creates the most stressful time in a doctorâ€™s professional life. A looming medical malpractice case is always fraught with anger, depression, self-righteous indignation, and unfortunately in a few cases, suicide.â€? He explains that, in a profession where anything less than perfection is seen by the public as failure, most physicians maintain a very high standard of practice. And when, as human beings are apt to do, they commit errors of judgment, omission or commission, they are devastated when assaulted by the seemingly unfeeling malpractice attorneys. â€œA doctor who is sued by a malpractice attorney can no longer look upon the ninety-nine patients who do well, but only on the one who has had a problem,â€? he shares. In addition, looming over the physicianâ€™s head is the ever increasing cost of his or her malpractice insurance. There are many physicians who have to quit their profession because they could no longer afford the insurance rates. In Dr. Bermanâ€™s opinion, the responsibility lies not solely with the attorneys, but also with the litigious society they have nurtured and the public who feel that anything less than perfection should be financially compensated.
So does Dr. Berman have any sympathy for the homicidal surgeon in Scalpel? â€œNone whatsoever,â€? Dr. Berman claims. But he admits that, as a novelist, he had a wonderful time exploring the possibilities of a hyperbole reaction of one particular doctor who â€œgoes off the deep end,â€? perhaps a reflection of the transient evil thoughts of most doctors when they receive a lawyerâ€™s letter of intent to file suit for medical malpractice.
And, Berman emphasizes, those evil thoughts are fleeting. He doesnâ€™t hold any long-term grudges against lawyers. In fact, he counts many among his friends and has found that they share his sense of humor. â€œIâ€™d even be willing to give my attorney friends copies of Scalpel for the holidays. Nothing says friendship more than allowing attorneys to poke fun at themselves â€“ and, not so incidentally, letting physicians join in on the funâ€?
By Dr. Joel Berman
Juniper Springs Press