Changing the System: Medical Mistakes and Unprofessional Behavior
My visitor who wrote the e-mail I last posted, sent me a follow-up e-mail continuing with the concern about medicine's current tendency to hide, cover-up or fail to report medical error and unprofessional behavior. The visitor wrote:
The system must change. Doctors must feel free to chart mistakes. When a doctor feels pressure to avoid documenting the result of poor care there is a problem. When a doctor feels pressure to lie about providing medical interventions that were not provided there is a problem. When other doctors feel the need to support lies, either to protect a less skilled doctor or to avoid getting dragged into a messy court case, there is a problem. When nurses do not feel free to report unprofessional behaviour or medical mistakes there is a problem. At my local hospital nurses were told to stop complaining about a doctor who was behaving strangely. They were told they would lose their jobs if they continued to complain. The result? The doctor died of a drug overdose in a hospital washroom moments after overseeing an operation. The problem was so bad it was common knowledge around town that this doctor was not performing well, 3 months before he died. Even if the system doesn’t care about the quality of care patients are given, in this type of situation, the system should at least care about helping the doctor. This doctor had two young children and a wife. The problem of covering up mistakes or unprofessional behaviour stems from the fear of being sued or looking bad. As human beings we should be able to rise above a cycle of lying and suing and move toward providing a safe healthcare environment.
The Heath Council of Canada is looking at a New Zealand model of no-fault healthcare insurance to encourage a more open, honest system of reporting problems. Or for an example of how long it can take a patient to get the medical system to take a complaint seriously, and the damage inflicted on other patients when the goal is to cover up problems, check out this example. If I recall this problem was not addressed until a patient went to the press for help.
You may have noticed that this topic of medical error and unprofessional behavior has been a repeated subject on my blog. There is reason to keep this problem on the top burner when medical ethics is being discussed because of its widespread presence and its profound impact on patient care. Perhaps my visitors can contriubte suggestions to help with its solution. ..Maurice.