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04 March 2010

I Object!

So, I just spent the last week in Boston.  From July of '04 to June of '05 I was there as a Junior Fellow in Cardiac Surgery.  Basically, I was the Cardiac Surgery ICU scutmonkey.  Well, one of them actually as there were four of us hired that year.  My days and nights were spent taking care of the many, many different types of cardiac surgery patients in the ICU.  I learned a lot during that year.  Many of the events of that year helped mold me into the type of physician that I would want to become.  I think back to that time as an amazing experience.  However, during the last several months I have had to look back at that experience and wonder if I even realized then how a simple series of actions could lead me to spend four days in a courthouse; three of which were on the witness stand. 

Now, I like to think of myself as a pretty honest, thoughtful, considerate physician who lives by the philosophy of "Primum non nocere" - "First do no harm."  I think this governs my actions even more than the Hippocratic Oath.  And, in general, I don't like (not that anyone does) being asked in a public forum to defend my actions, my honesty, my very integrity.  But I had to.

I'm not going to delve into the whole experience which at times left me feeling every emotion from pure anger, to self-doubt, to honest reflection, to sheer relief.  I was lucky to have one of my colleagues from that time there to support and share in the experience.  If anything, we were a sounding board to each other about our thoughts on the day, the lawyers, the plaintiffs.  We also shared memories of the time.  And, revisted a few of our old haunting grounds.

She's continued on in surgery and will graduate this year and start her practice of medicine.  I changed to emergency medicine and will start my own practice later this year.  We're amazed at what we remember from that time and what we've done since then.  In a lot of ways both of us have been changed by this experience.  I feel for the better... however, just don't get me started in an argument about healthcare reform... except for my awesome legal team I'll be quoting Shakespeare, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."


Claudia's thoughts said...

People have unrealistic expectations.They expect everything to be perfect when it can not always be so.

Even though the risk and complications are explained they feel the lure of the malpractice Million Dollar Lottery

People do not see death as the expected outcome of life, if someone dies it is because someone has done something wrong.

Julie said...

I am sorry you had to experience that and so soon in your practice. It's the one thing in the back of our minds every day we work. Especially when you have family members writing down each and every thing you do while your taking care of their family members. I suppose our charting is similar. Don't get me started on tort reform or health care reform either, LOL. Glad things worked out.

Jeanie said...

Over here in the English Lakes I was told by my first aid tutor that he was once sued by an American lady who collapsed as she was getting off her tour coach. He had need to unbutton her blouse and when she woke up she threatened to sue him for her nakedness. He was giving her CPR for goodness sake!
Because it was on the roadside in front of others she felt she had a right to sue. So we were made aware of the possible outcome of giving CPR to people who could be likeminded. It's a sad world when you can be sued for going to someone's aid.
What is the first thought in that man's mind from now on I wonder? Or other's for that matter?
Jeanie xxxx

Patty E said...

Several years ago, I also tried to discourage a mother from having a risky neurosurgery procedure done on her child. Several peds neurosurgeons had already recommended against it as too risky but Mom was determined. She didn't want her child to have to use a wheelchair in 10-15 yrs. She kept searching until she found one who said yes. She appealed the denial and we were "overruled".

Her daughter went into the procedure able to walk with only occasional weakness in her legs and came out of it a ventilator dependent quadriplegic.

Mom turned around and sued us for allowing the child to have the procedure performed. I've spent years having to give depositions and appear in court over this case. I feel your pain and frustrations.