Difficult relatives still need my love

The Doctor's Life Support for 18 August

‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’

Mark 12: 31

The barium enema list went well until it was the turn of a lady referred for vague abdominal pain. This increased after the examination so, despite reassurances from a senior radiologist, I kept her in for observation. Three hours later her abdomen was distended and she had subcutaneous neck emphysema. Within hours I had called a surgeon, and she had an emergency hemicolectomy for a perforated diverticulum at the hepatic flexure. She recovered well, but a bulky pancreas, noted during surgery, was later diagnosed as an inoperable pancreatic carcinoma. Shortly afterwards, the patient’s relatives wrote letters to the hospital and Ministry of Health, accusing me of medical incompetence and negligence. The case is still ongoing. My initial feeling was one of indignation. I had kept her under observation despite reassurances from a senior colleague, and her surgery had not been delayed. Should I have felt vindicated at the finding of the carcinoma? No doubt many of us have faced situations when, despite all our best efforts, patients remain unappreciative and accusing. Yet if I put myself in the position of the patient and her family, would I not be indignant if a harmless procedure had precipitated this sequence, ending with the diagnosis of an inoperable cancer? As a medical person in the same situation, I would probably have been an even more difficult patient or relative. As things are, the lawyers have advised me against speaking to the patient or her family, but I hope that they are coming to terms with the illness. I pray, too, that whatever the outcome of the case against me, she may somehow come to the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Written by An anonymous author

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