Sunday, December 4, 2011



So my friend Dave Garrick tells me a funny story about medical mistakes.
I laughed, and then I worried.
Dave was famous around Toronto for his wit, community service and leadership at the Ex, CN Tower, SkyDome (which apparently has another name) and Winter Fair. Now he and Joy live in and enjoy Kingston, which is just more proof that Toronto is no longer the greatest place to live because of hassles like traffic.
Dave had an operation recently and as part of the post-operative care, the doctor prescribed a stool softener. When he collected it at the drugstore, the instruction on the vial read: "Take one capsule twice daily into left ear for constipation."
On another occasion, the phamacist gave Dave the medicine for another person, and just to balance things out, gave that person Dave's medication.
I wrote about medical mistakes in my blog on August 15 titled Post-Mortem On Hospital Hell. It was my conclusion to a five-part series in the Sunday Sun and on my blog.
My incidents were dangerous since two could have killed or crippled me.
And they keep happening to the Downings.
I took Mary to the hospital for a wonderful surgeon to check on her knee replacement  that he did several years ago. Now her hip was bugging her and perhaps she needed the other knee done as well as a hip.
 We waited for two hours past the appointment time and then a resident working under the surgeon said she also needed to have X-rays done on her hips as well as her knees. Mary had wanted that done at the start but was ignored.
 So another two hours later the same training doctor calls up an X-ray on the computer screen, shows us the arthritis in the hip area and says that it's up to his boss to make the decision but it seems obvious she needs a hip replacement.
He leaves and as we hunker down in the long wait for the surgeon, I wander over and look at the X-ray. The resident wanders by and I call him into the cubicle. I point to the X-ray and the data listed in the upper right corner. I told him it was the X-ray of a woman 19 years younger than Mary.
No surprise! No apology! He just searched for the right X-ray and came to the same conclusion.
Hospitals now go to elaborate procedures to ensure that doctors operate on the right part. When Mary had her knee replacement, there were eight or nine checks to ensure that everyone knew exactly which knee joint was to be removed. It got tedious but after the old horror stories of the wrong limbs being removed, it is understandable.
I'm sure many of you have received purported stories/nonsense off the Internet about the annual number of deaths caused in the United States by mistakes by doctors, hospitals and pharmacists.
The so-called authoritative studies are permeated by hysteria by the usual suspects. There are also campaigns by activists pushing alternative medicine. I really don't know what to believe.
They say that doctors and hospitals kill more people than guns do. The annual toll ranges from 120,000  up to 250,000. Or so they say.  Stories insist that medical mistakes are the third-largest cause of death in the U.S.
 It's obvious this "menace" would be hard to  pin down because doctors and hospitals aren't running around broadcasting mistakes and the cause of death is often hard to determine.
It's up to you to make sure you're not a statistic.
When I see a doctor, I carry a notepad like I did as a working journalist. I date the page and scribble  the main points.  In the last three years, twice I have found wrong info in my file. There was also the "disappearance" into the system of a morning of crucial esting on my heart. It was only retrieved and studied by the cardiologist after I pointed out the absence.
Medical care today is wonderful but also is a bewildering maze where you have to pay attention and not just take things for granted and every off-hand remark by a doctor as law.
 In the words of the patrol sergeant in the old TV hit police show as he sent his constables out on the street: "You be careful out there."

1 comment:

Guest said...

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