Malpractice. Nothing can ruin a perfectly good day as much as a patient throwing out the "M" word.
It was DrH third to last day of residency. A patient with a recurring GBM (bad brain tumor, terminal) had come into the clinic for his follow up. Wife chews doctor out because patient didn't get his Rx steroids when he should have. Doctor leaves room. Leaves clinic. Goes home.
That is the short version.
When I talk to him as he is on his way home, I get the full story. The story about how they have operated on this patient 3 times. The tumor keeps coming back. It will come back again.
I listened to how my DrH described how he went over the discharge orders with the patient who was completely lucid and alert. How he checked for understanding. How he went over the medications (including the steroids) that he was to take when he went home.
I listened to how my DrH gave his patient the most comprehensive discharge he could, not just to cover his tail, but to make sure the patient knew what he needed to do because his doctor cares. And then, how that patients wife told him to "get his hands off her husband", and to never touch him again when he walked in the room to say Hi and wish him well.
I feel sorry for that poor woman. I know that she is scared. I know that she probably doesn't mean what she says. I know that she is angry.
Her husband is going to die.
I feel like our entire future is hanging in the balance. Not over this particular case (because there isn't one), but because any time a patient is unhappy with an outcome they can throw this word around as a threat. Some are empty, others not so much.
Right now as we are on the cusp of applying for real world jobs, future employers are going to want to know if the doctor they are hiring has been named, or is currently named in a malpractice suit. I don't want my husbands name ever to appear on a legal document as the defendant.
I wish things were different. I wish I could tell this woman that my DrH is a good man. I wish I could tell her that he wants nothing more than to cure brain tumors like the one her husband has so that it isn't a death sentence. That is what this fellowship is all about. I wish I could tell her that his entire family is making a sacrifice so that one day no one will lose a spouse this way.
I wish I could tell her that it isn't nice to use the "M" word just because you are upset. It isn't a word that should be thrown around lightly, and frankly I don't think a patient should ever utter the word in the presence of their doctor.
I wish I could take away some of the power the "M" word holds.