Sunday, September 23, 2018

When Should Your Doctor Say 'I'm Sorry'?

For many people throughout the world, this past week provided an opportunity to reflect on one’s life and to invest in one’s soul.   While self-examination should be an ongoing task,  the Day of Atonement is a singular opportunity to meditate deeply on this process.  While this day culminates a 10 day period of intense reflection – or so it should – once again, this does not relieve us of our obligation to pursue this task on all other days.

Atonement is a tough business and I admit that I am no expert.  Consider how challenging this process is.
  • Personal reflection.
  • Acknowledging personal flaws and transgressions.
  • Approaching those whom we have wronged to make it right.
  • Forgiving those who seek our pardon with grace.
  • Committing not to repeat our offenses if placed in the same circumstance again.
Sounds easy?   Hardly.  Changing our traits and actions are very difficult.  Why do you think so many of us have the same list of New Year’s resolutions every year? 

But, change is possible.

Here are some actions that many in the medical profession might seek atonement for.  I am judging no one here, and I admit that as I construct this list that I am not without sin.
  • A diagnosis is missed because a physician was not sufficiently diligent.
  • Privileged health information was inadvertently disclosed.
  • A physician is habitually late and is indifferent to his patients’ time.
  • A doctor disparages a colleague.
  • A physician fails to return phone calls from concerned patients.
  • A doctor berates one of his staff who made an error.
  • A doctor berates one of his staff who did not make an error.
  • A doctor modifies a medical record for the wrong reasons.
  • An impaired physician does not seek professional assistance.
  • A physician has a lapse in his bedside manner and doesn’t demonstrate the empathy the patient deserves.
  • A physician thinks of his own interest over the patient’s interest.

I don’t ask any reader to pay any heed to this post penned by a confessed imperfect and flawed man.

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