Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Fear And The High Risk Patient

Every day, doctors do risky things for their patients, often because they have no other options. Today is such a day for me.

I don’t know how it will go, and because of privacy laws I really can’t tell you about the case, I’m sorry. (Nor will you get an epilogue, that’s not the point of this post). But let’s just say that any normal person would consider the case I’m about to perform very high risk because of the patient’s condition. Even though you tell people they could die and take care to mention that fact time and time again, you wonder if they really can comprehend the significance of what you’re saying – after all, there is a fine line between being reassuring in a time of crisis and telling it like it is.

I’ve spoken with the family and kids at length, I’ve answered their questions, I’ve even asked that only one of them serve as a spokesperson for the entourage of family members who have come to the hospital and flown here for this day. And yes I’ve documented, documented, documented. I can only hope everyone knows how serious this is. Certainly the patient does.

But I also realize I assume a tremendous risk professionally doing this procedure. I’ve done what I feel is everything short of today’s procedure in the hopes it could be avoided, to no avail. I’ve amassed an army of individuals to help. Monitors and medications will be assembled to counter every contingency, but there will still be the possibility that something will arise I have not considered. Most of us would rather be doing something else, but all realize there’s few options than to proceed.

I know I’m not unique. This happens all the time in America in hospitals big and small: where doctors are pulled into circumstances like this as reluctant dragons, with a patients who trust in them to such an extent they’d have no one else do it but you.

Scary, really.

I hope and pray that all goes well. But as hard as this is, I wished like hell I didn’t have to worry about the 800-pound gorilla who’ll be in standing in the corner watching me today.

And trust me: every doctor in America knows who that is.

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »