Have a Story to Tell? Had a medical error?

This blog is about patient safety, medical malpractice, staying healthy, and preventing future errors. Help & empower someone else, Teach a lesson, Bear witness, Build our community - Email us or call 781-444-5525.

Frustrated with a health problem?

Need an ally in your health crisis? Call 781-444-5525, or learn more.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

If you would have come earlier: A cancer misdiagnosis

National patient safety expert Dr. Peter Pronovost describes what got him started on his crusade:

My father died at age 50 of cancer. He had lymphoma. But he was diagnosed with leukemia. When I was a first-year medical student, I took him to one of our experts for a second opinion. The specialist said, "If you would have come earlier, you would have been eligible for a bone marrow transplant, but the cancer is too advanced now." The word "error" was never spoken. But it was crystal clear. I was devastated. I was angry at the clinicians and myself. I kept thinking, "Medicine has to do better than this."

Advice: Get a second opinion promptly upon receiving a crucial diagnosis.

Read a very different story about the need for a second opinion. Thanks to Claudia Dreifus for the source interview in the New York Times of March 9.

1 comment:

HarryFini said...

I agree with your post about second, third and fourth opinions. I also never take "Yes" for an answer either -- "Yes we are doing everything possible for your loved one." Medical mistakes are now the third leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease and cancer, before stroke and complications from Diabetes.

When my 88 year old father became critically ill with a raging urinary tract infection after a full day of work and walking 8 blocks to the Emergency Department, I consulted with the Intensivist who was trying to stabilize my father who was now in end stage renal failure.

I had carefully coordinated all of my father's care at this leading University Medical Center and when I asked if the Intensivist was going to consult with my Father's Neurologist who treated him for a mini stroke 3 years before, or his Cardiologist who was treating him currently for his heart Arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) or his pharmacist for all of the medications he was taking, I was answered with a resounding "No!" What happened to the "Yes, we are doing everything we can?" I was told that even though those consultations might be helpful, this is not The Intensivist's scope of practice. His scope of practice is to stabilize the patient as he or she sees the patient when presented in the Intensive Care Unit. I changed his scope of practice and sequestered all of my father's specialists to consult, got the pharmacist to consult about his medications, and as my father's patient advocate, asked a thousand questions and demanded answers and actions twice a day, every day for the 21 days my Father was in Intensive Care. We have Palliative Care teams now forming rampantly in hospitals, teaching patients and their families how to die, but we have no patient advocacy programs that teach people and their families how to live. EVERY family needs their own patient advocate to navigate the maze of broken healthcare, and to change the arcaine and archaic practices that don't work anymore. By the way, my now very healthy father turned 91 last month, still lives independently in his home with some assistance services, drives himself to his physicians' offices and shopping,and inspired me to start a business around this phenomenon.

Harry Fini, www.LifeSaverLivingSolutions.com