Wednesday, September 8, 2010

There’s No Point in Getting Angry With People For Being Incompetent

My husband, the alien, is finally well enough to start getting angry with his doctors.  The thing is when all is said and done, none of them knew better; none of them put his life at risk on purpose. When you’ve nearly died twice in the past two weeks because of medical error, you want somebody to blame, somebody to hate.  But these doctors and medical residents are just humans who made mistakes.  One of the medical  residents apologized for his part in hurting my husband, and I found myself consoling him – I know you didn’t become a doctor to hurt people -- If you wanted to do that, you’d have joined the CIA torture division.

And now it is my husband’s turn. He’s alive. He’s getting stronger. He still has a long way to go before he can resume his usual active life. Being angry is part of that – but unfocused anger doesn’t solve problems. My husband is a problem solver.  How do we solve the problem of incompetence?

We can decide not to go back to the doctors who made these mistakes.  But it would be more useful if we could train them so they don’t make these mistakes in the future. That is another battle.  How do we talk to a hospital staff that is in denial and defensive mode?  I can only hope they want to improve. I’ve written letters to the appropriate people spelling out the exact errors and procedures that would prevent repetition.  So far they have not responded.


  1. Years ago, I had surgery to repair my bladder that was falling down. In the course of the surgery, the doctor "accidently" stitched a catheter to me, so that when he tried to remove it several days after the surgery, it would not come out. I had to go back into surgery 3 weeks later, be put to sleep again, for them to remove that catheter.

    I was VERY agry, as this situation caused me to take 4 weeks longer to recover from that so called simple surgery. I called my attorney in a huff, wanting to sue. But, he told me that in the grand scheme of things, I was not really harmed in a long term way by what happened, that doctors make mistakes every day, but that most people do not die from those mistakes. IN other words, it was futile to sue.

    I did recover completely, and changed doctors, as I could not bring myself to go back to the same one who had caused me extra pain. So, I guess what I am saying, is that I agree with you on this.

  2. Karen, I'm glad you survived! Medical mistakes are unfortunately part of our modern world. I do wish doctors would learn to say "I'm sorry." And I hope you weren't charged for the 2nd surgery. I know we weren't.