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Article

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Doctors vs. Lawyers: The Perils of Perfectionism, 53 53 St. Louis U. L.J. 1177 (2009)

Abstract

Sandy Johnson's keynote lecture is, in common with all of her work, subtly appreciative of the complexities of the interactions between the law's regulatory ambitions and the clinical practice in medicine-and especially the ways in which unexpected and unwanted results can follow from the application of seemingly unobjectionable and even noble ideals.' She urges us, in particular, to give respectful attention to the complaints of physicians in the trenches of medical practice, even when they seem self-protective, exaggerated, or even without any obvious merit on their face. In my brief reflection on her lecture, I want to begin with a personal experience at the early moments of my involvement in issues of law and medicine when I had not yet learned the lesson that Sandy teaches us. In the early 1970s, I was just starting in the academy (with my newly minted law degree and a few years in government practice) and was invited to participate in a panel discussion before a group of doctors. New judicial decisions had recently emerged that appeared to intensify physicians' responsibility to obtain truly informed consent from patients, and many physicians saw these decisions as a harbinger of things to come-the early steps of the law's intrusion into their previously sacrosanct domain. My goal, as I saw it, in this panel discussion was to calm the physicians' concerns and, in particular, to lead them to see what I had distilled from my (very recently concluded) legal education-that is, to view legal interventions as a normal part of everyday life, not as a fearful and erratic behemoth, a raging bull in a very vulnerable china shop.

Date of Authorship for this Version

2009

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