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A Patient’s Guide to Dealing with the New Fake Medical Apologies
Today's apology is Chris Matthews apologizing for his characterization of Hillary Clinton's success in politics coming down to her husband's infidelity and that people must have felt sorry for her. It seems genuine to me.
Okay yesterday we talked about the importance of an apology and why these new fake apology laws for the medical profession are bad medicine for the community. Today let’s talk about what to do when you’re the patient and are confronted with the fake apology.
FAKING OUT THE FAKERS
Say you’re the patient or the patient’s relative who is on the receiving end of the fake apology. You’re standing outside of the surgical suite, the surgeon emerges looking glum and you hear the surgeon utter the fake apology words, “I’m sorry, but I ______________. “(fill in the blank with your basic never-event medical mistake like wrong-site, wrong-side, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient, wrong-kidney removed, wrong-finger amputate, wrong-leg amputated, wrong-knee operated on, wrong-side of the brain drilled into, wrong-wrong-wrong-wrong-whatever – The list is long and excruciatingly mind-numbing. ). Your immediate reaction is to listen, but at this moment in time, for the sake of your BFF, the patient, you need to be ready to go on the offensive. So listen first then get ready for some follow up questions during the Q&A period. This is important because what you have to know is that not every word spoken may later be classified as part of a fake apology.
My guess is the doctor expects you to first be in shock and then to be forgiving him/her. Those making fake apologies really believe you’re stupid enough to take it at face value and walk with them down to the fake hospital chapel to ask God for forgiveness. What the doctor doesn’t expect is for you to be listening and be ready with a series of questions that go beyond the apology head-fake. An honest and sincerely apologizing doctor will answer your questions; the dishonestly insincere ones will clam up like a jewel thief talking to the cop on the beat right after he’s broken in and is heading out of your apartment.
To fully appreciate this point I need you to be in the right frame of mind. So think about this situation as if the doctor were your teenage son or daughter who violated curfew, brought the car home sans the hubcaps, covered in mud and with the entire passenger side scraped and dented. You know that feeling you get when you hear them say, “I’m sorry, I hope you’re not mad.” It’s that little voice in the back of your head that says, “Not on your life buster/missy, it’s not going to be that easy.” Yes, that one; that’s the frame of mind you’ll need to be in when you hear the apology coming your way from the medical community.
Okay now that I’ve reengineered your thinking let’s go over the questions. As you look the doctor squarely in the eye reach down to your pants pocket and turn on the recorder. You did bring a recorder didn’t you? Okay, I’ll cover that in a later post. You should have a medical apology digital voice recorder that you keep in your pocket. Practice turning it on and off in at home in your living room before ever accompanying someone to surgery. Get a Sharpie and write on the case, “Fake Apology Meter”.
So now the doc has said the words of apology and he/she is looking at you waiting for you to say, “That’s okay my wife didn’t need the healthy kidney anyway. How else can we save you money? Would you like to do surgery on me?” But instead you’re going to ask these questions.
1. What did you do wrong?
2. Who made the mistake?
3. What is the mistake that was made?
4. Did you read the chart before starting the surgery?
5. Why not?
6. You do know your left from your right, don’t you?
7. How much sleep did you get last night?
8. During the surgery were you drunk or on drugs?
9. Was it because you were in a hurry to get to another operation, the golf course or a vacation?
10. Who else is involved with making this mistake?
11. Why didn’t any of other members of the surgical team point out you were operating on the wrong _________? (Again fill in the blank.)
12. Tell me again why the mistake was made that led to my friend’s injury/death?
13. Will you or the hospital be charging the patient for this procedure?
14. Tell me again why the mistake was made that led to my friend’s injury/death?
15. Will you be putting all of this information in your surgical report?
Okay, I realize you can’t ask 15 questions, but you can ask the first 3 and if the doctor is willing to engage with you then keep asking questions. Hey remember, he/she started this apology dialogue, not you. He/she is the one getting paid the big bucks while ruining your BBF’s life. All your family asked for was honest professional medical work, not taking out the wrong kidney along with a head-fake apology.
WHY ASK QUESTIONS
You’ll ask questions because, not every word spoken as an “apology” may later be considered to be part of an apology. The more they say the less likely the judge is to later find it as an apology.
WHY IS THE DIGITAL RECORDER A NECESSARY MEDICAL INSTRUMENT?
In order to protect ourselves every patient and working man and woman who is involved with a surgery needs with them a standard hand-held battery operated recording device as part of your hospital-stay overnight bag. You should pack your family’s medical recording device right in with your toothbrush. It should be a part of every patient’s arsenal that we are using to bring honesty back into medicine. The honest doctors won’t mind, it’s the dishonest one’s who deserve it.
Now tomorrow I’ll tell you why it’s important to our children that we record the fake apology.