His widow sues. Five night-sweat-years later, our colleague wins in court, because he has good documentation.


I’ve never been sued,

not even close-

no suicides or medication deaths,

only a threat, years ago, from a woman

I committed against her will. I know.

I’ve been lucky.

Last month, my malpractice carrier

sent me a “Case Study” to review-

a psychiatrist sees a patient once,

makes a solid suicide risk assessment,

and the patient goes home and ODs.

His widow sues. Five night-sweat-years

later our colleague wins in court.

Because he has good documentation.

So lucky.

And luck sped by this April

morning on my drive to work-

bright sun, snow pack thawing

when a school bus strains toward me

on the other side of the double yellow,

a head-phoned jogger on my side

between fog line and guard rail

when I hit glare ice. I kill

the reflex to slam on the brakes,

and my car glides through,

all of us lucky to be alive.

Which brings me to my office,

8:57 AM, first patient out the door

while I document how I prevented

another disaster, ten more patients

before sunset, fingers crossed

I will steer clear from danger,

that my luck will hold.


Dr Berlin is Instructor in Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA. ­

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