May 21st, 2013
Dr. Jonathan Welch’s Narrative Matters essay in the December, 2012 edition of Health Affairs, regarding the cascade of errors and omissions he witnessed in connection with the care provided to his mother, should raise profound questions about how the hospital allowed those failures of care to happen. Dr. Welch, an emergency medicine physician, watched helplessly as his mother received indifferent care from various nurses and doctors and ultimately died. Despite having classic signs of evolving sepsis, she was not closely monitored by the nursing staff which ignored alarming signs, was not put on a sepsis treatment protocol by her oncologist, and was not put in an intensive care unit where she could receive more intense monitoring and aggressive treatment from specialists.
While it is tempting to blame the nurse (for not taking vital signs frequently enough and not reacting to abnormal vital signs) and the oncologist (for not following the patient closely enough, not initiating appropriate treatment, and not involving other specialists), Dr. Welch’s story suggests that there were more deeply rooted systemic problems at the hospital that went beyond the shortcomings of the individuals involved in his mother’s care.
As health care attorneys who represent hospitals and physicians, we believe there are some fundamental questions which should be asked by this hospital’s administration, medical staff leadership and governing body to ensure Dr. Welch’s experience is not repeated. Those questions, which the leaders in all hospitals should consider, include the following:Read the rest of this entry »