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Sunday, February 10, 2008

OK, 2 rants

Before I go to bed... 2 things.

For some reason, I have been reading the boards a lot lately. I mean the WLS boards, of course. Here are the top two things that really yank my chain that people insist on posting about:

1. "I have XYZ health problem, my doctor told me this and that. What do you think I should do?"

Umm, I dunno, maybe not try to get medical advice from perfect strangers who have a very low likelihood of knowing anything about your health?!? I mean, if you don't like your doctor's advice, maybe get a second opinion. Or even ask someone you KNOW has some sort of expertise in the area, rather than random people whiling their time away on message boards. I know people like to get other people's opinions about stuff, but this is your health. Perfect example I just read tonight: the poster has a low pulse rate after gastric bypass surgery, accompanied by dizziness. She also has elevated liver enzymes. Her doc refers her to a cardiologist, and now she puts it up to the experts at oh-aych dot com to tell her what to do next. Am I missing something here???

2. "I/my mom/my son's teacher had surgery and this terrible complication (that I fully recovered from, in fact never had any untoward effect from it and my health is fine now) happened and now I don't know what to do?"

The answer to that question, on the boards, is always a resounding: "Sue the bastard! Get a new doctor! What an incompetent fool!" Now, I get very edgy about this particular thing. Often what has happened is so-and-so went in for surgery (elective surgery, mind you, for morbid obesity, that the person has signed INFORMED CONSENT for which details most of the complications that might happen because YOU ARE ASKING SOMEONE TO CUT YOU OPEN) and their surgery is not completed because the surgeon nicked something or made some mistake--they close the patient, let them wake up, tell them what happened, and the person wants to know if they should have the surgery as rescheduled for the next week with the same doc or not. There aren't any residual effects from the surgical error, except that they didn't wake up with the procedure they expected to be done. Yet everyone is quick with their chorus of "Sue the bastard" and "Don't let him touch you!" and "what an incompetent idiot!" etc etc. Am I the only one who gets annoyed by this? For one thing, EVERY SURGEON, every doctor, every health care practitioner out there, makes mistakes. They are made on patients. Good ones, bad ones, they all make mistakes because they are EFFING HUMAN BEINGS. I mean, all the world's administrators, teachers, postal workers, truck drivers, cooks, lawyers, database administrators--they all make mistakes every day. Yes, I realize that health care professionals are held to a higher standard because their mistakes can cost someone their health or their life, and we should be held to a higher standard, absolutely. But still, mistakes will be made. How lucky are you to be the one on whom the mistake that was made didn't cost you your life or your health? Maybe some inconvenience, an extra scar, some worry until you are sure that you are fine? Of course, some people make a lot of mistakes, and certainly some health care professionals of all breeds are truly incompetent. But people are so quick to assume that any mistake at all indicates that the person cannot be trusted, is not a professional, is clearly not educated or skilled enough to care for patients. Excuse me? How do you think it is possible to do ANYTHING as a human being without making some mistakes? The mark of a competent surgeon, in my opinion, is the one who will come to you in the recovery room or in your room when you wake up, explain what happened to you, tell you what was done and what will be done to make sure you are okay, and apologize for the error and worry. Unfortunately, most docs are trained to never apologize because that admits guilt, which invites malpractice suits. The research has shown that patients who were apologized to by their caregiver were far less likely to sue than those who weren't. But anyway. The other thing about it that drives me crazy is the suing thing. We are obviously very quick to litigate in the US, and especially in cases of surgical errors. People assume that a, surgeons are infallible, unless they are incompetent, b, they are loaded, and c, this is the time to cash out. What does this do? Clog the judicial system with frivolous lawsuits. Drive up health care costs for everyone. Drive competent providers out of business because of the insurance premiums after one of these (almost always) frivolous suits. Reduce available funding for valuable research. And most importantly, it doesn't do anything to change the outcome of what happened, and it doesn't change the fact that mistakes will happen as long as humans are practicing health care. It's simply wrong, all around. Lawsuits should be brought by people with legitimate cases: people who were harmed by true incompetence or negligence.

It's enough to make me crazy.

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