Friday, October 13, 2006

Better safe than sorry

My advisor told me a scary personal story today. Her father was in an accident a while ago and was admitted in the ICU. There was no conceivable improvement in his health for weeks. Then her father acquired infection in the hospital due to his weak immune system. More than a month passed and there were no signs of improvement. So the doctor decided to pull the plug. My advisor asked the doc if her dad had any organ failures and the doc said that wasn’t the case. My advisor was appalled and took it up with the director of the hospital. Eventually the doctors decided against euthanasia. After 3 months her dad recovered and was released from the hospital.

This brought up several issues in my mind. Her dad would not have survived had it not been for my advisor’s resourcefulness. She was knowledgeable enough to make a call on the diagnosis given by the doctor. She did not treat doctors as the authoritative figure to make the decision. Had she put blind faith in the doctor and given up on her dad because the doctor said so, her dad would have died that day.

From personal observations I can say that everybody does not take the initiative to understand and investigate the treatment options available. Some are afraid that they may not have the aptitude for understanding all the issues with medical treatment as they did not receive any medical training. Others have faith in the medical staff and don’t intervene. There may be other reasons to it that I am not aware of. But time and again I have heard about medical mishaps, some of which could have been prevented had the patient’s family taken an active role in the process.

It is a very difficult time and a stressful situation when you have a loved one seriously ill in the hospital. Many people shy away from the patient because they are afraid they might break down in front of the patient after seeing all the machines and tubes hooked up to the body. It is very hard, but I hope that if ever you are in that situation you find the courage to be there by the bedside for the patient. As I suggested earlier, I hope you take the initiative to read up on the disease and treatment. There are many websites that explain the disease and treatment procedures in layman’s terms. Although prepare yourself to be emotionally strong because many of the scientific articles that you may come across may be blunt about the risks of the treatments and disease prognosis.

It is important that you are aware of what is going on. The doctors no doubt are trying their best to treat the patient but there are many diseases where there aren’t definitive treatments. Medical mistakes happen often and some of them can be prevented by your awareness. There was a case where a diabetic person was admitted to the hospital for some other medical reason. There was gross negligence on the part of the nurses/doctors and the patient was administered a glucose drip. The person died. I hold the hospital liable for this death. No doubt they failed to investigate the patient’s medical history and the patient had to pay with his life. But I wonder if things would have turned out differently had the family been more vigilant and proactive in the treatment process.

My mother has received no medical training but she has enough medical know how to help out in a medical crisis. She has acquired the knowledge out of her own interest. If anyone in my family ever gets sick, she is always by the patient’s bedside making sure things are running smoothly. If the saline drip runs out because the nurse forgot to switch the empty saline bag with a new one she fetches the nurse. She may not be able to match the medical expertise of a doctor but she contributes in whatever capacity she can.

The medical staff is there to help you but at the end of the day it’s just a job for them.


P.S. Store your emergency contact's phone number under the name ICE (In case of emergency) in your cell phone.

10 comments:

cheti said...

Luck dad ! My friends mother, on the other hand didnt make it ! IT was so clearly a wrong decision on the medical staff in her case.

Sigh. Totally agree !

Fleiger said...

Reminded me of the talk we had in our class from MD of J&J medical division. He gave us the statistics to show that the doctor and the hospital which performed Bill Clinton's recent surgery had one of the worst mortality rates for similar kinds of surgeries in the area.

His point was, if ex-president of US cannot have complete information as to his medical condition...

Nobody said...

Great message. Everyone should note the ICE number.
Thanks for sharing.
BTW.
Euthanasia in the US?
I didnt know they legalized euthanasia in the US.
What I knew was that they allow to pull the plugs only when the patient is brain-dead.
I might be wrong.

another brick in the wall said...

me against euthanasia.. umm.. strong believer in god n destiny.. mebbe thts y.. but.. really man.. human cant control life.. human cant control death.. so bloody.. pulling the plug is human jst tryin 2 play God! n thts ridiculous! somehw most docs dont wanna accept ths fact.. mebbe thy feel like someone stripped thm off their powers whn such statement's quoted.. but ah well.. fuck the ego.. this is the truth! :S

ps: good message btw! thanks! :)

AK said...

No opinions, just a thought. Imagine if you were in this person's shoes....

Person has a son and daughter, son is older. He meets with a horrible road accident that leaves him disfigured and in coma. He is in hospital on life support, no one knows if he will wake up and the hospital merrily uses him as a lab specimen.

The father is a middle class guy who cannot afford to keep his son on life support for long. Its been almost a month and he is running out of money - his entire life savings. Being a typical Indian parent, he has to worry about his daughter's wedding and stuff.

The question is... should he allow the doctors to pull the plug? Remember that if the boy wakes up, he will be crippled and disfigured for life. He might hate his dad for keeping him alive. On the other hand, if they pull the plug, the father lives with the guilt all his life. If they keep him on support, he still feels guilty of letting down his daughter who is alive and well in order to keep his brain dead son alive. What should he do?

Is there an answer? What is right? what is wrong?

Indian Curry said...

It is indeed a horrifying thought...

I remember when my dad had broken his leg, on his neighbouring bed in the hospital, was a guy who had fallen from a local train (mumbai local). He had fallen on to a fencing and his knee was completely bruised. Doctors at the Sion hospital had concluded to ampute his leg. A friend advised him to to take a second opinion and had referred to the Doctor who was treating my father.

Two and a half months later he walked out of the hospital with the help of a walker. I am sure he must be back to his routine life.

Indeed, for questions between life and death it is a must to have a second or a third or a fourth opinion till you are convinced about it!

Kripal Pais said...

The problem with any situation is that people shy away from taking decisions. They dont want to take the responisibility for their decision, should it go wrong. Hence, in most cases they prefer to let the doctor take the decision and abide by it.

In ak's case, there are pro's and cons on both sides. so the doctors opinion can swing the decison either way.

my opinion would be that the doc's have spent thier whole lives trying to study the human anatomy. But to err is human. they are human and not gods. so if you have a gut feeling that something isnt right, have the courage to believe in yourself

mandeepsg said...

I am also against euthanasia, you should never loose hope. Only exception being if the patient will always suffer endless pain...

Doctor Bruno said...

Few Comments

1. Euthanasia NEVER for Accident cases. A patient who has suffered an accident, would have been in good health before that and is more likely to recover even if he is in Coma. Any one who advocates Euthanasia for Accident cases has to get his Medical Training once again

2. //It is important that you are aware of what is going on. The doctors no doubt are trying their best to treat the patient but there are many diseases where there aren’t definitive treatments. Medical mistakes happen often and some of them can be prevented by your awareness.// Fully agree, but see the next point

3. //There was a case where a diabetic person was admitted to the hospital for some other medical reason. There was gross negligence on the part of the nurses/doctors and the patient was administered a glucose drip. The person died.// Not possible. Hyperglycemia (high glucose) will NEVER kill a patient in one day. Only when the Blood GLucose level is more for a longer period, patient develops complications. There should have been some other reason. On the other hand, hypoglycemia (low sugar) is immediately fatal within minutes. (High as well as low blood pressures are both fatal)

4. //I hope you take the initiative to read up on the disease and treatment. // DOn't do that. You can go for second, third, fourth, fifth opinion (from other doctors), but PLEASE DON't READ The nonsense given in websites and thing that you about the disease. Let me ask a simple questions. All the laws are given in website. Can you ever file your own case and argue in court. Websites give steps for stitching dress. Have you ever, EVEN ONCE, stitched a dress and worn it. When you want a tailor to stitch the dress you wear OUTSIDE your body, how come you feel that you can do the treatment and give drugs that go INSIDE your body

It is nothing wrong to know about the disease. For that you have to consult another "doctor" (friend or relative) and not read the websites).

Anesha said...

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