Monday, March 28, 2011

Why is it...

That when I, or anyone else, point out that an unfortunate or even disastrous situation could have possibly been prevented or avoided if a doctor had not made an error or had been better informed, I am inherently attempting to "bash" doctors in general, and am badmouthing them?

I've noticed this happening more and more often. I will not immediately and happily discredit medical professionals without good reason; I know some that are incredibly good at their jobs and deserve far more credit than they get, and I know (and have heard of) others who are completely lost on subjects or knowingly keep their patients in the dark about procedures and side effects so they can reap the short-term benefits of more pay or better reviews. I know some amazing, great doctors, ones that I love and ones that I would trust my life with (although I can't promise I'd have a choice in the matter), and I know some that I am positive should have lost their licenses and been stripped of their degrees years ago.

Mind you, I try not to generalize, and do my best to keep it specific when able (or at least leave quantifiers when it isn't possible to be specific without giving names). I will sooner use words like "some," "most," "those I know of" instead of "all" or "every". I would never argue that some doctors have invariably more experience with certain situations than others, though few have more experience than actual specialists. I will not pretend to know what certain doctors are or are not good at.

But when I see situations that are inherently, painfully incorrect, I get upset. I get angry. I get frustrated and want to pound my fist and say that I. Was. Right. Someone messed up somewhere and information was not properly spread about and because of that, an innocent person was hurt or killed and a family has lost an important and integral part of itself that can never be replaced, or said person's life has changed in ways that they can never get back.

Let me explain.

I saw today that someone whom I went to high school with, though was not particularly close to, had passed away at a VERY young age a couple of days ago. A friend posted on her Facebook page that the individual in question had a c-section several weeks ago, had experienced some excruciating back pain, and went to bed that night but never woke up. A blood clot had killed this woman, a mother and wife, someone whose presence was needed and wanted and who could never be replaced. And the first thing I thought was, I've been in that position. After A was born, I had some problems with my right leg and excruciating pain that I could not explain (I seriously believed I had torn a muscle in my leg while giving birth, it was that bad), but I was self-educated enough to bring it up with a doctor and had an ultrasound performed that day. I was lucky; there was no blood clot and I had indeed torn something, and the pain eventually went away as the injury repaired itself. However, my doctor never brought up this possibility beyond a mild and dismissive mentioning in the hospital after A was born. It was mentioned, they said it was rare, and I thought nothing more of it until the pain began. But I had looked up a lot about pregnancy, about childbirth, and I knew what to look for and what to worry about.

The thing about this woman's situation that bothered me was that by all accounts, and with all the information I had, her life could have been saved. From what I could see, she did not need to die; if her doctor had done their job, and informed her of the risks of a major surgery, and had ensured she properly understood what a blood clot could entail, perhaps she would have sought medical attention. Do I know for a fact that she DIDN'T know about blood clots? No. Perhaps she willfully ignored information given, knowing the chance was there but thinking it couldn't or wouldn't happen to her. Perhaps even if she had hurried to the ER and expressed her worries, nothing could have been done. Perhaps even if something could have been done, it would have resulted in a lot of excruciating and difficult recovery for her, and dangerous surgery to catch and stop the clot. There is every possibility that she knew exactly what to look for, ignored it, and that even if she had rushed to the hospital that they perhaps could not have saved her. But the problem is that to me, I see the other side: Maybe she would have lived. That is where my beef comes from; I don't know a single person who would know the dangers of having a blood clot and the symptoms of one and who would still willfully ignore those symptoms and accept the risk of said clot, assuming they were properly informed and educated in the first place. We put so much trust in our medical professionals, yet too often situations like this happen, and I always wonder what might have been if information had been properly disseminated to patients.

What if she had no idea what she was up against, no idea what to expect? What if her death was directly caused by the negligence of a doctor who didn't tell her about blood clots? What if she was a victim of her own ignorance?

THAT is what makes me angry. There is a very real possibility that she trusted her doctor, like so many people do, so much that she did no further research and looked no further into the side effects of c-sections and even of the signs of problems to look for after giving birth, and because she did not simply ASSUME that her doctor would neglect to give her life-saving information, she died. Her children have lost their mother, and it may very well be because her doctor did not properly provide for her as he or she should have, and because she trusted that doctor with her life.

I have no words, in all honesty, to explain how I feel about this situation. I expressed so much on the page of the individual from whom I learned all of this information, and was greeted with a response from another friend. That response, while I no longer have it word-for-word, was basically nothing more than an accusation that I was "bashing" doctors and turning the entire discussion into an opportunity to "badmouth" them.

Realize, please, that my initial response was nothing more than a disappointed mentioning that I was aware that such situations were often preventable, but ONLY if the patient was aware of possible side effects and their symptoms. Most patients are only made aware by their doctors and thus if this girl truly passed as she did, it was quite possibly because her doctor neglected to do their job and make sure she was a fully informed patient.

I could not understand, at first, for the life of me why I was accused of apparently trying to badmouth medical professionals. I had no intention of doing anything of the kind; I simply realize that there are as many good doctors out there as bad (if not fewer), and that as patients and especially as parents, we owe it to ourselves and our families to be as informed as possible - even if the information we have is not provided by our healthcare professionals directly. If I wanted to badmouth someone, be it a doctor or a random person on the street, trust me. I would do it, and it wouldn't be pretty, and I wouldn't use nice or fancy words to do so. I would put it out there exactly how I felt and why, and I'd do so without regard for the feelings of the person in question. But I had no intention of badmouthing anyone. I responded as politely as possible, but ended up simply deleting both of my posts when I realized that no matter what I did, or said, at least one person had it cemented in their head that I was openly and willingly "badmouthing" educated doctors, and that I didn't particularly care who I hurt in the process.

So I'd like to set the record straight, here if nowhere else: I do not "badmouth" doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, or any other health professionals. I understand that they work in stressful environments and that they are, like everybody else, only human and prone to error, especially when burdened with life-changing decisions that are on the shoulders of nobody else. The problem I have, though, is that regardless of the situation, these are the same men and women on whom we rely for information we would not normally have access to or prior knowledge of, and when this information could be the difference between life and death, it is not only their job but their responsibility to protect us and provide for us by sharing this information immediately, fully, and with the ability to ensure that their patients and patients' families understand exactly what problems they may run into, their symptoms and side effects, and how to react. When a doctor gives wrong information, or neglects to share it fully in the first place, people die. And I will never, ever be able to tolerate that.

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