Sunday, March 23, 2008

Case Gone to Trial

I ran into a woman this week at the supermarket that couldn’t wait to tell me about being on jury duty for a medical malpractice case. She is not in the “patient safety network” so didn’t know anything about medical errors or patient safety. It was fascinating to listen to her for 15 minutes describe her first, second and third reactions to the world of medical malpractice from her first time perspective.

The case was of a woman who had a mastectomy. She saw her original doctor a few times early in the year who watched the calcifications in her breast not change for repeated mammographies. She had many more tests for safety than would have been expected. Finally, the doctor said don’t worry, come back in a year. The following year, the patient changed doctors and it was found she had cancer and had a mastectomy.

Of course there is 2 weeks of information I am not filling in. They settled out of court for a fairly large sum of money.

The woman in the supermarket told me the entire jury was siding with the doctor. She was surprised they settled because they all really believed the doctor did all she could with the information she was given. It was a difficult case. The woman in the supermarket was in turmoil, clearly distressed but also amazed at what she learned in just these few weeks. She was glad she said “that the woman got something”.

I asked why since the money wouldn’t change anything. She didn’t know, it just seemed like it was the right thing to do for all her suffering.

Then I asked the question that could not be answered. “How do you know if the woman actually needed a mastectomy or if the doctor didn’t just do it because it was easier than treating the patient”? I went on to ask this woman in the dairy department “Did anyone interview the surgeon and ask what was the basis for the drastic surgery?”

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