If Roles Were Reversed

October 2, 2023 by

This poem was written by Tricia Morvan Derr, a malpractice defense trial lawyer, to her surgeon on the eve of surgery. (All went well, BTW…)



I would tell you, “Don’t worry!

My job is to stress.

Get some sleep, read a book.

Go and have some good rest.”


You would ask lots of questions.

You’ve never been here.

“Draw” a judge? “Pick” a jury?

Full of doubt. Blinding fear.


My judgment, you question.

No choice but to follow.

You struggle internally.

Dreading tomorrow.


“Why did I subject

Myself to this pain?

I thought I was saving

This World. All in vain.”


“Now, I’m the target

Of this tortuous game.

I tried to bring wellness,

Not professional shame.”


Take your oath. Face the jury.

You heed my advice.

No options. No choices.

Hold your breath. Roll the dice.


The jury returns.

They reached a verdict.

Did they get it all right?

Did they find you were perfect?


Or did they judge you

And define you by one

Unfortunate day

And tragic outcome?


Win, lose, or draw.

The burden remains.

Your patient still suffered.

You carry the pain.


Your lawyer moves on.

Another healthcare provider

Will face the misfortune

Of sitting beside her.


While vindication should feel

Like a show of support.

To you, there is nothing

Good about court.



Now I’m on the table.

Trusting your skill.

I hope God is beside you.

Faith. Healing. Goodwill.


I consult Dr. Google.

I hate to intrude.

I know it’s the weekend.

I continue to brood.


Free advice – Do not share

Your personal address

Thinking I’d never

Abuse it like this.


I’m sorry. (No, I’m not.)

I just need your time.

I’ve given my life.

Now, your turn, for mine.


Your successes and failures

I really must know.

Have questions. Need answers.

Did you get my memo?


By the way, what’s this?

This “Informed Consent?”

No way! I won’t sign!

What does THIS represent?


Yes, it was drafted

To mitigate risk.

I just never thought

Of myself signing it.


Will I recover from surgery?

Will I still be as strong?

When I’m not on the table?

AND – What if you’re wrong?


What if I’m fine?

And the price that I pay

Is trusting your judgment

And regretting this day?


Or will you save me?

And make it so I

Continue my work

Long after “Goodbye?”


I know you’d rather

Never come to my office.

On my end. The same!

Surgery makes me so nauseous!



Lawyer or doctor

There are no guarantees.

Just lots of praying

“Dear God, can you please…


Give us endurance and passion.

Give us patience and love.

We help one another.

With strength from above.”


It goes without saying.

We play the same game.

I trust you to trust me.

And I trust you the same.



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