Much of the reaction to Flea’s case at Kevin, MD, GruntDoc, and a variety of other blogs has focused on its implications for medical blogging or on the doctor’s poor judgment. But this sad tale also begs the following question: Would the episode have happened at all if Flea’s medical practice were in Texas?
It’s conceivable that, in a state where non-economic damages are capped at $250,000, the parents of Flea’s patient may not have been able to find an attorney willing to take their case. Had they been unable to find a lawyer, Flea would have had no trial to live-blog and there would be no pall hanging over the medical blogosphere.
Eric Turkewitz is certainly correct when he calls this episode a tragedy, but its scope goes far beyond Flea and the parents of his unfortunate patient. It will contribute to a lawsuit abuse problem already out of control, one that has already done serious damage to American health care.
Flea’s case wasn’t settled on the merits. It was settled because of a few intemperate posts on his blog. Now, there will be lawyers and paralegals all across the country trolling the web for blog posts by anyone connected with a medical defendant. Will they be doing so in states where tort reform has been enacted? I doubt it.