Where’s defensive medicine when you need it?

It’s not news to readers of this blog that hospitals are dangerous. I’ve even advised bringing your own physician to the hospital as an advocate if you can. So I agree with the advice in today’s Boston Globe, Patient, protect thyself, which advises patients to ask doctors and nurses questions, such as:

  • Did you wash your hands?
  • Are all these tubes needed?
  • Did you start antibiotics too soon before surgery?
  • Could you check the central line for signs of infection?
  • Is the bed at a proper angle, since the patient is on a ventilator?

It all makes good sense, and as Betsy McCaughey, chairwoman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths says: “If you’re worried about being too aggressive, just remember: Your life is at stake.”

But let’s face it. It’s unacceptable that patients and their advocates need to do this, especially at “top” hospitals.

It got me thinking. What would be the analogous instructions to clients and customers of other service providers?

For pilots and flight attendants:

  • Did you put fuel in the plane?
  • Could you make sure to close the door?
  • Is the runway long enough?

For fire dispatchers:

  • Can you remind the firefighters to bring a ladder since I’m on the 3rd floor?
  • Can you make sure the air tanks aren’t empty?
  • Did you write down my address?

For police officers

  • Could you make sure not to leave your gun lying around?

For lawyers

  • Is your opinion based on the laws of this state?
  • Did you spell check?

For financial planners

  • Are those recommendations based on my portfolio?
  • Is that mutual fund manager you recommended in prison?

Am I off base here?

August 27, 2007

5 thoughts on “Where’s defensive medicine when you need it?”

  1. You are absolutely right. Nobody should waste their time asking insulting questions of competent, conscientious health care professionals. Now, where are the few competent, conscientious health care professionals working?

  2. Good points!

    I will admit I’ve looked out the window of my airplane wondering if the flaps were really supposed to look like that on takeoff.

    On the other hand, if you order a Coke and they bring a Sprite it is alright to say that’s not what you’re supposed to be getting.

  3. These questions are ridiculous. It is like going to buy a new car and asking the salesman to make sure the car has oil, or if the tires have air. If the hospital is so inept that you have to ask those questions after you just got out of a major surgery, making sure if “all these tubes are needed” should be the least of your worries.

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