Just as money can't return health to Josh's damaged body, vindication by a jury cannot heal the fear Dr. Mark Shockey now copes with as he wonders which patient's family may sue him if death is the natural outcome of illness.

Regardless of how careful he is in caring for patients, Shockey knows he will inevitably get sued - again. "It's not a question of if, but when I'll get sued. I take care of very sick people. They don't always get better. I know I will have patients die and I'll get blamed."When Shockey faced a malpractice suit, his reputation, self-confidence, honor and financial future were at stake.

After a deliberating only an hour, a jury decided Shockey was not negligent in his treatment of a 33-year-old man who died of complications resulting from a severe respiratory illness.

The doctor favors the Justice Commission's proposal to remove malpractice from the public arena of the courtroom into the privacy of arbitration by a panel of experts.

Awards to those with valid malpractice claims would be predictable, standardized and more expedient, he said. A panel of arbitrators - a physician, a lawyer and a lay person - would understand the complexities of medicine better than a jury. Juries would not be swayed by attorneys' theatrics, and compensation would be more fair.

While the pressure was intense to settle the case and avoid the anguish of trial, Shockey knew he had done nothing wrong. "The young man was very near death when I saw him, and he got much better under my care."

For 18 months, the threatening suit created tremendous expense and anxiety. Time was diverted from family and patients to preparing his defense.

The ugly ordeal of contesting a malpractice suit has changed the way Shockey practices medicine. Malpractice suits encourage a "defensive" practice - extra tests to make extra sure - creating outlandish health-care costs, he said.