I stared down at my name neatly typed next to the word “Defendant.” Around it were numbers, names, and small print that I didn’t understand, on a form headlined “In the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon.” Below my name, small print said, “You are hereby required to appear and defend the complaint filed against you—” What complaint?
More neat typing filled another blank line: “the Estate of Helen F. Simmons, Deceased.” Helen? I knew her. Curly brown hair, funny lady. Deceased? Oh, no. She was only in her forties, but she’d already had at least one heart attack. I realized I hadn’t seen her for awhile. Deceased? My god, what had happened?
The next page was a different legal form, with numbers down the left edge. This, too, repeated the heading “In the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon.” Just below the heading, in capital letters, was, “ESTATE OF HELEN F. SIMMONS, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF, VS. MERILEE D. KARR, M.D., DEFENDANT.” And next to that was the answer I was looking for: “Complaint: Wrongful Death Based on Medical Negligence.”
Oh, my god. Deceased. It was me. I killed her. My knees buckled, I couldn’t breathe, and I wanted to dig a hole in the floor and disappear into it.
That form was a subpoena. That’s how I heard about my first malpractice suit.
Merilee D. Karr
Merliee D. Karr is a health and science journalist, family physician, playwright, and dramaturge. She has published in the Journal of... read more