Saturday, 13 April 2013

Complaint About Physician Complaints

R was born with orthopaedic problems that surface on and off over the years.

Things escalating.

Goes to see physician who looks at X-ray and declares:
1. You are not a good candidate for corrective surgery
2. You have the body of an 83 year old woman (R is 50+ years younger)
3. Your life will be very hard.

R and her family are very hurt. They are angry. They believe physician should lose her right to practice medicine.
So far, we can all agree that:
1. Physician has a big mouth
2. R and family deserve an apology

R goes to see 3 or 4 more specialists who all say original physician was wrong. R is a great candidate for corrective surgery.  There is no reason for her life to be hard. And they mention nothing about 83 year old women.

Possible explanations for what happened:
1. Physician was looking at the wrong X-ray
2. Physician looks for certain criteria for the corrective surgery that she did not see in R
3. Physician has a legit clinical opinion that differs from the other specialists
4. Physician is stupid
5. Physician made a mistake

Any of these explanations are plausible.  In any of the above cases, I think R and family deserve a kind, handwritten apology. 

Often, families who have received incorrect medical advice are angry. They want people to lose their jobs, lose their licenses and be escorted out in hand-cuffs carrying a cardboard box of belongings. 

However, I urge you all to recognize that there are a multitude of reasons why inaccurate information is given at a medical appointment.  If something happens that makes you unhappy or uncomfortable, it warrants additional investigation.

In this case, I would love to see an investigation determine:
1. If the physician has made this kind of mistake before
2. If the X-ray is mislabeled or there was another quality problem that needs correcting
3. If physician has a track record of poor communication skills 

Reporting the physician could have the following possible positive outcomes:
1. Physician should be told that her clinical decision turned out to differ greatly from all other specialists consulted, and that she needs to brush up on her research
2. Physician should be asked to apologize, in writing, to R and her family
3. Following complaint receipt, physician may think twice about telling otherwise healthy young women their lives will be hard
4. Family will accept apology and stop fantasizing about legal trial with Marisa Tomei playing star witness

I am so sorry that in addition to suffering through orthopaedic issues and associated surgeries, R and clients like her have to put up with stupid and insensitive remarks from medical professionals.

I am also sorry that medical professionals are not easily forgiven for making stupid and insensitive remarks.

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