Last Wednesday I started work at a law firm that handles medical malpractice suits. Basically, they sue doctors who have fucked up.

I thought I would be doing monkey work – photocopying, shredding, getting coffee for the lawyers, etc. Instead they’ve got me going over the files of a case that wrapped up last year, making sure that everything is scanned into the computer. The case in question involved a gynecologist who butchered, for lack of a better word, 99 women. He’d scare them into getting unnecessary hysterectomies by telling them they might have cancer even though there was no evidence of any cancer – just a cyst, or another abnormality that would have resolved on its own or with conservative treatments such as antibiotics. He treated surgery as an option of first resort, and rarely if ever presented his patients with any alternatives. Really fucked up, right? And it’s not like this was happening in a third world country or a rural backwater town – this was happening right in Toronto. Okay, Scarborough, which perhaps makes more sense. But still.

The other thing I’m learning about is the cold calculus of the legal system. For example, if a doctor ended up killing your kid due to negligence, you would be absolutely crushed. But the best the legal system could do is get you about $30,000 as compensation – approximately the same amount a woman might be expected to get if a doctor’s negligence cost her one of her breasts. Now, I love breasts as much as anyone. They’re one of my favourite things in the world. But as great as they are, I can’t imagine that very many mothers would rather lose their child than a breast. The logic behind this is that a child doesn’t contribute to the family financially in any way, and is in fact a drain on a household’s resources. There’s no lost income that needs to be recouped – it’s just emotional damage, and apparently that isn’t worth very much.

Although this sneak peak at the sorts of things that happen in this world has been jarring, I can say with certainty that I’d rather be on the “good” team than on the team that’s trying to defend the faceless insurance companies and save them money by denying deserving people of some form of compensation. My soul wouldn’t be able to handle that.

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