Never did I imagine that the hardest questions I would have to answer as an attorney are “Do you know a good doctor?” or “Will anyone treat me without health insurance?”
I know lots of great doctors. I consider many outstanding physicians friends, valued advisors, and role models. My wife is a resident physician – on the verge of entering private practice. I’ve had my share of bumps and bruises which my trusted caregivers manage to straighten out in short order and get me right back into the Crossfit gym. More importantly, the lives and limbs – literally – of my parents have been saved by heroic doctors. Nine surgeries and months in an external fixator saved my mom’s arm. Therapeutic hypothermia may well have saved my dad’s brain after his massive heart attack and delayed return of spontaneous circulation.
I am surrounded by medicine, each of my clients has a unique story whose ending is heavily influenced by the care they receive. I study medicine to understand my client’s conditions – and to hold dishonest hired experts accountable by discrediting their medically unsound paid opinions. Medical journals are familiar resources for information on emerging research and best practices. I’m fascinated and energized by the incredible potential of regenerative medicine and pluripotent and multipotent stem cells. I learn the medicine of each of my client’s cases, because the better I understand my client’s condition and situation, the better the outcome I am able to obtain on their behalf.
But did you know that Florida law now says that if I recommend the same physician to two different clients – regardless of whether the physician is the best and most qualified in his field – my clients and that Doctor may suffer for my advice? The doctor may be subject to extensive and intrusive financial discovery, and each of my clients will have to answer for the money paid to the doctor by or on behalf of the other client. The doctor will be painted as a collusive fraud – because he was recommended by a “greedy lawyer” – and the client will be denounced for doctor shopping through his co-conspiring counselor. All of the money the doctor has been cumulatively paid for his excellent medical care of each of my clients will be brandished as irrefutable proof of the fraud. All this because I dared to offer an answer to my client’s question – who would I go to if I needed that type of doctor. For my family, that question is not theoretical.
But pity the client who receives and follows my recommendation of who to see… For the law says that they must bear the insurance-company-manufactured scorn of every dollar that doctor has earned treating anyone related to me. And then it’s only a matter of time before the accusatory questioning and financial digging by the insurance company or their attorneys causes the distinguished doctor to throw his hands up in surrender: he has enough patients to not need the headaches my clients cause him.
So when my clients seek my genuine advice regarding the best medical treatment available, I can’t recommend the doctor who saved my mom’s arm or so patiently and kindly cared for her neurologic injuries. I can’t recommend the doctor who my wife endorses as an excellent physician – or whom I have learned of through groundbreaking medical literature. I can’t recommend the doctor who treats his patients with dignity and respect rather than as a number on a chart. All because, according to the new law of Florida, by recommending the caring, qualified, distinguished physician, I am harming both my client’s case and the reputation of the doctor. And that’s just plain wrong.