Posted on October 11, 2007 in Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice persists despite the best efforts of those in medicine. Why medical malpractice persists is an age-old question but I offer my insights in an effort to expand the conversation.
I am an attorney and a registered nurse. As an attorney I represent injured individuals in medical malpractice cases http://www.salt-lake-city-attorney.com/ As a nurse I help injured individuals recover from horrific burn injuries.
Before representing plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases I worked to defend hospitals from medical malpractice claims. I thought I would be able to help change the system from within. I thought when a mistake was made and the patient was injured we could arrive at a reasonable solution to compensate the victim. In essence, make things right the best way we could. I soon realized that it is all about money and not the injured person.
We all make mistakes. There is no doubt that doctors, nurses and all health care providers make mistakes. After all we are human beings. That does not mean that the practitioner is a bad person. It simply means that the practitioner made a mistake. When a surgical pad goes missing in an operation and remains in that person it is a mistake. Unfortunately what generally happens is that money becomes involved and all try to minimize exposure.
I read an interesting article in Newsweek in their September 24, 2007 edition http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20789360/site/newsweek/ titled Good Doctors Spot Mistakes, Save Lives. Dr. Karl tells a tale about where a doctor in a cardiac catheterization lab rebuffed a nurse’s suggestion that he use the correct guide wire during a procedure. The patient is harmed and the offending doctor blames the nurse. This is too often the case. There is a blame game that persists in medicine. Because the doctors are the revenue generators for a hospital it is rare for a doctor to be fired because of a mistake. Nurses on the other hand are oftentimes fired for making a mistake. Fair? Probably not! Destructive? You bet!
This is destructive behavior because communication is stifled. If the nurse in the Newsweek article had no fear of retribution she probably would have insisted that the doctor use the correct guide wire and the resulting harm may have been averted. Technique, years of training and expertise is nothing without communication. Communication is what prevents errors.
I think that is the point to Dr. Karl’s letter in Newsweek. Medical information grows at an astounding pace. Try to keep up with a relatively narrow practice area and you will understand what I mean.
We, as healthcare practitioners need to understand that it is all about communication. To get the right information to the right person is paramount. Electronic charting and sharing of medical records between institutions is important. This can be accomplished if only we have the commitment to do so. Money is important and the healthcare system needs an overhaul. I think we can all agree on that.