Sunday, February 19, 2006

Defenseless Doctors

Original photo by Stuart

This post was inspired by a post on Richard Winters' blog.

A famous person was admitted. She had a major bleed in the brain. Initially, she had no pulse and was not breathing. She was succesfully resuscitated, and admitted to the neurosurgery ICU. A cerebral aneurysm was found, and operated succesfully. After 2 weeks of intensive care, she regained consciousness, and was discharged from the ICU after 3 weeks. She had almost total amnesia for the first few weeks, and slowly started recovering. She went through extensive rehabilitation and was finally discharged from the hospital after several months.

She recovered extremely well. In fact, she recovered so well that she was able to return to her high-profile work, and she gave several interviews on TV and in magazines. In the interviews, she told the harrowing tale of how she was treated inhumanly in the hospital, how she was forced to lay in a bed with her hands tied down, how she was asked the same questions over and over, and how no one ever explained to her what was wrong with her and what her illness was. How the hospitals are horrible, cold places where patients are stripped of their humanity, how the doctors are cold cynical people who are not sympathetic to the suffering of their patients.

Looking at her interview on TV, we were stumped. Having worked very very hard indeed to bring her back, practically from the dead, then to see her in such good health and at the same time putting us down like that, it was mixed feelings to say the least.

Fact is, she was so demented during the first weeks, and confused for a month or two, that she had to have her hands tied at times so as to prevent her from pulling out her breathing tube or iv's and from injuring herself. Her illness was explained to her every day, often several times a day during that time by nurses and doctors with infinite patience.

Her comments initiated a public discussion (again) of the miserable state of health care, when she was in fact a success story.

And how did we defend ourselves? We didn't. We can't. We are bound by doctor-patient privilege and cannot make any public comment on such matters. We never can. The discussion is always one sided. Doctors and nurses do their job, then shut up and take the heat, move on.

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Neuro said...

How dementic she is now like she was during the acute illness...

Anonymous said...

In a recent emergent hospitalization I too remember being asked questions, the same questions repeatedly, but since the emergency did not involve injury to my brain, even while heavily medicated for pain I knew the purpose, somewhat, for the get information, to determine my mental status, etc.

What is often true is that 'celebrities' aren't the brightest bulbs on the planet, no matter how talented, (and sane people listening to interviews with them know that) and expecting them to understand the necessity of certain occurrances while in the hospital is too much to ask. Besides, 'victim' is such a delicious role to play, forget who might be hurt in the process. It's all about 'me, me, me' to these narcissistic beauties!