Recognizing the Problem

If you believe any of the following statements to be true:

  • Doctors are fallible (capable of making an error)
  • You have more interest and investment in the welfare of your loved one than the doctor does
  • You have more time to think about what is best for your loved one than a doctor has
  • You know your loved one better than a doctor ever could
  • Most, or many, doctors no longer have the time to do the “best” job for their patients
  • Many doctors are controlling and arrogant (and some wield their power over you in an insensitive fashion)
  • Doctors are human and come with all the usual human foibles such as pride and greed
  • Doctors and nurses are human and can’t make good decisions in a sleep-deprived state any better than you could, or than airline pilot could
  • Doctors are human, and as such, have about the same rates of alcohol abuse, drug abuse and personality disorders as the rest of the people in the United States
  • Doctors are subject to the same everyday troubles that weigh on their minds and can distract them from their jobs as everybody else in the work force (problems with finances, marriages, teenagers, illnesses, time constraints)
  • Nurses and other medical personnel have these same distractions, and because of this at any time could make an error that could change your life forever
  • Some doctors, despite their charms, professional appearances or qualifications, are actually looking out first for their bottom lines and only secondarily at your best interests, and that you can’t really tell the difference between them and the “good” doctors
  • Like priests, doctors are in an important, authoritarian position to influence our lives profoundly- either for the good or the bad
  • The state medical boards that license and police our doctors have low budgets and little power, and so can only deal with the doctors who are the most flagrant in their abuses against the public; thus, each physician has somewhat a little kingdom of his own
  • Absolute power corrupts absolutely
  • Some auto mechanics or repairmen may tell you something is wrong, so that they can get paid to “fix it” (and you understand that some doctors have the same base instincts)
  • Many doctors and nurses are doing the right thing- but that there are still some things that you should know to help them help you
  • Even more doctors and nurses are trying to do the right thing, but can’t keep up with the ever-increasing list of bureaucratic demands that our current, dysfunctional healthcare system places on them
  • Some doctors, nurses and other medical personnel get “hardened” to the suffering and pain of others, not because they want to be, but because they somewhat have to be in order to do what they do; and that often a patient’s family can help prevent some suffering by being there to remind the doctor or nurse to be gentler with the patient
  • As many people die from medical errors in US hospitals each year as would occur if a commercial jet crashed each day of the year (almost 100,000 lives per year); and that number doesn’t include the thousands who survive medical mistakes but suffer unnecessarily or become permanently disabled; and that number doesn’t include the 99,000 people who die each year from infections acquired in the hospital; and that number doesn’t include those who die or are permanently harmed while being treated outside of the hospital.
  • We don’t hear about many of the people who’ve died or are disabled due to medical errors because our legal system allows the doctor and his attorney to require the injured patient or patient’s family to sign a non-disclosure clause to settle the case
  • Other reasons that we don’t get it that we need to take steps to try to protect ourselves from fatal medical errors are that the numbers trickle in across the country daily in non-sensational ways and we wrongly believe that those errors only occur occasionally, sensationally to “bad doctors” like the ones we’ve seen on TV news programs
  • Many doctors treating patients with chronic health problems are not giving their patients current medical advice and medical management, that will help them live their longest, healthiest lives and that outdated and/or incomplete treatments are also given to patients with acute illnesses
  • Many patients and families are suffering today because of mismanaged, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed health problems
  • You are in a safe spot with “your doctor”
  • Hiding your head in the sand to the facts would be wrong
  • It would be wrong for you to know all these facts to be true, and yet with blind faith over the complete medical care of your loved one to our flawed healthcare system
  • If your loved one was injured or died because of medical error then you could have been one of the people who might have prevented it

If you believe ANY of these things to be true, then you must take action to ensure the safety and well-being of your loved one. With knowledge comes responsibility and I, Dr. Carolyn Oliver, MD, know these statements to be true.

If you don’t have the time or have the time and don’t make the effort to do the best you can to protect yourself or your loved one in the healthcare system, then you could be one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans every year who rolls the dice and takes their chances but loses in this deadly game resulting in death or permanent disability because of medical error.

You might be one of those who with a chronic disease who is only partially treated and so you unnecessarily develop complications or die earlier than you needed to- both of which could have been prevented with proper treatment. Because, if the healthcare system is broken (which it is), and there are things that you can do to help (Which there are), how can you ignore your responsibility?