Physicians' psychologic reactions to malpractice litigation

South Med J. 1991 Nov;84(11):1300-4. doi: 10.1097/00007611-199111000-00003.


A questionnaire investigating the psychologic sequelae of malpractice litigation was administered to sued and nonsued physicians through a major malpractice insurer in a rural southern state. Factor analysis showed clusters of symptoms, including psychologic trauma, job strain, shame/doubt, and active coping. Psychologic stress decreased with time (but did not return to baseline after 2 years), with winning a case, and with increased age. Stress was increased among those with cases pending or multiple suits. Female physicians used more active coping strategies, and being in a high-risk specialty led to greater job strain and active coping, regardless of litigation experience. Malpractice litigation is a major life trauma that should be dealt with as any other trauma, including use of positive coping strategies such as knowledge of the psychologic sequelae, cognitive reframing, and collegial and personal support systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malpractice / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data
  • Southeastern United States
  • Specialization
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires