Litigation Stress: What Is It?
If you’ve lived through litigation, you likely have a sense of what litigation stress is, but you may not have known that it exists as a well-defined term. You simply know it because you’ve experienced it in some form: sleeplessness, anxiety or depression, depersonalization or burnout, imposter syndrome, disordered eating. What you may not know is that litigation stress is a normal and expected human reaction to an abnormal psychological stressor. As much as physicians, especially emergency physicians, like to think they are exempt from normal human emotions and reactions to stressful situations, they are not. Pretending otherwise is to our detriment.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 38 – No 08 – August 2019
In the coming months, this column will cover topics such as litigation stress. We will discuss how to prepare practically and psychologically for depositions and trial, plus explore the ethics of expert witness testimony, the effect of litigation on relationships, and many more common problems. By doing this, we will not only arm ourselves with knowledge and know-how, we will decrease any sense that we are in this alone. Trust me, we’re not.
Dr. Pensa is clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island; associate director (education) of the Emergency Digital Health Innovation program at Brown; and creator and host of the podcast “Doctors and Litigation: The L Word.”
- Balch CM, Oreskovich MR, Dyrbye LN, et al. Personal consequences of malpractice lawsuits on American surgeons. J Am Coll Surg. 2011;213(5):657-667.
- Andrew LB. Physician suicide. Medscape website. Accessed July 24, 2019.