Pulling Back the Curtain

In Malpractice: A Neurosurgeon Reveals How Our Health Care System Puts Patients at Risk, Dr. Larry Schlachter provides readers with an all-access pass to the inner sanctums of the health care citadel, exposing the cultural flaws that fuel doctors’ egos and outlining the steps every patient should take to protect himself or herself.

Drawing on 23 years of experience as a neurosurgeon and 11 years of experience as a medical-malpractice attorney, Dr. Schlachter shares unbelievable — but true — stories of patients who were harmed by negligent doctors. He illustrates the host of risks patients face whenever they seek diagnostic evaluation or go under the knife, and identifies the fault lines in the medical profession that allow doctors to literally get away with negligent behaviors.

Read Chapter One

Michael's Story

At age 22, Michael Skolnik underwent unnecessary brain surgery to remove a very small cyst. The performing doctor was never able to find the cyst and admitted "heavy manipulation of the brain." Michael’s complications left him partially paralyzed, partially blind and psychotic. He was unable to feed himself, speak, or walk. He suffered for three more years before he gave up and died.

— From Chapter 1, The Reality of Patient Harm

Table of Contents

  1. Preface

  2. The Reality of Patient Harm

    License to Kill

  3. Records Patients Aren't Allowed to See

  4. How I Became a Doctor

    Medical Boot Camp
    The Emotional Toll of Medical Chaos
    The Appeal of Ego — and Dollar Signs

  5. How Doctors Cope with Trauma

    Getting Back to Outcomes

  6. The Art of Medicine

    The Art (and Science) of Medicine
    Killer Headaches
    Doctor-Patient Symbiosis

  7. The Medical Conveyor Belt

  8. The Time Crunch and Other Risks We Face

    The Practice of Medicine
    Misread Tests
    New Technologies

  9. The Mask of Infallibility

    Loose Screws
    From Deference to Despair
    One Call Makes All the Difference

  10. Cover-Ups and Semantic Games

    Mistakes that Make Themselves
    The High Price of Emotional Detachment
    Rationalization and Accountability

  11. The Elusive Standard of Care

    Clinical Practice Guidelines

  1. How Good is ‘Good Enough’?

    When Malpractice Signifies Incompetence
    I’m Sure We Can Make This Fit
    All Plugged Up
    Arguing Over Definitions

  2. Why Dr. Codman Got Fired

    The Business of Medicine

  3. The Remarkable Case of Dr. Christopher Duntsch

    A Closed Society
    The Incentives of Malpractice Insurance

  4. Baseball Changes My Life – Again

  5. Propaganda War and The Myths of Malpractice

    The Myth of "Frivolous" Lawsuits
    The Myth of Greedy Attorneys
    The Myth of Out-of-Control Malpractice Litigation
    Yellow Journalism
    How Many Deaths is Too Many?

  6. In the Courtroom

    Expert Witnesses

  7. Every Doctor For Himself

    The System on Trial

  8. Rational Responses to Malpractice

    Follow the Money

  9. In Praise of the Responsible Patient

    A Final Wake-Up Call

  10. Endnotes