Medical errors: We cant trust doctors to get it right "If doctors do no other good, they at least prepare their patients early for death, undermining little by little and cutting off their enjoyment of life." These words from Montaigne are 350 years old, but, sadly, too often they describe the results of modern medicine, particularly when it is mindlessly applied in a needlessly heroic way to the end of life. I spend ...

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The safety concerns that keep clinicians awake at night often aren't issues that you could fit onto a safety and quality dashboard. They aren't the kinds of things that feed metrics on the CMS Hospital Compare website or any of the other sources of publicly reported quality measures. They are intensely local, and no less important for being so. This reminder came to me recently during a quarterly meeting of Comprehensive Unit-based ...

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I was listening to the news on my way to work recently, and heard a story about the review conducted after the well-publicized security breach at the White House. Like many people, I was shocked when the story of the fence-jumper first broke. How was it possible that some guy with a knife managed to get over the fence, cross the lawn, enter the White House and get deep into the ...

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Patients are doubly screwed by the malpractice system Part 3 of a series.  Read part 1 and part 2. The aspect of malpractice suits that lawyers seem congenitally unable to understand is how devastating it is. "Ho hum," says a lawyer who read my first two posts in this series. "Get out the violins." It's as if, because I make my living operating on ...

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In my administrative role, I have the great pleasure of signing thank you letters to patients and family members who have acknowledged the great care they have received by one of our physicians or other caregivers. It is a nice way to tell the patient “we got your note” and to simultaneously recognize the provider by copying her or him. The best part is that I get to read the ...

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Is it about physician drug testing?  Is it about allaying the pain and suffering of families of patients whose outcomes have been devastating and tragic?  Is it about the compensation of the legal counsel who represent those families and patients? Truthfully, I don't want to talk about 46.  I think the issue is very much deeper and the process that underlies medical malpractice litigation has consequences for individuals and society that ...

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The New York Times has reported on a woman who wanted to deliver vaginally and claims she was forced to have a repeat C-section (her third C-section) against her will. I can’t comment on the veracity of her claims, however a forced C-section is never, ever acceptable. It doesn’t mater if the fetus has an agonal rhythm (is visibly dying on the monitor), as an OB your role is to ...

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Part 2 of a series. Read part 1. I realized I was entering into a process the rules of which were entirely separate from normal human interaction when it hit me that news of the lawsuit was in the newspaper before anyone had had the decency to contact me. What kind of people act like that? Civilized behavior, respectfulness -- in short, all the ways in which you'd think nice ...

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If you are a physician like me who performs procedures, then rarely you will cause a medical complication. This is a reality of medical life. If perforation of the colon with colonoscopy occurs at a rate of 1 in 1,500, and you do 3,000 colonoscopies each year, then you can do the math. Remember that a complication is a blameless event, in contrast to a negligent act when the physician is ...

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Taking lawsuits personally: A surgeons first malpractice case Part 1 of a series. In all my years of practice, my dad called me at the office only twice. The second was to inform me of a horrible family tragedy. The first -- well, I guess in a small way you could say it was the same. "I hear you joined the club," he said. "What?" I had no idea what he was talking about. I'd ...

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