Voices Across America

When Treatment is not in the Patient’s Best Interest

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State: California
Congressional District: CA24


Blood Disease, Endocrine Disease, Gastrointestinal Disease, Heart Disease, Kidney Disease

Issues and Challenges

Paula has encountered: Abuse (Mental, Physical, Elder)

My Story

My husband had heart failure (30% ejection fraction)--3rd /4th stage kidney disease--Peripheral artery disease-- abdominal infection from an infected hematoma caused by a blow to his abdomen when he fell. In addition he had anemia--a fistula in his upper right abdomen and type 2 diabetes.

He was dropped of at ER because he had developed gangrene in his big toe but was admitted to the hospital because of his poor physical condition. His medical records were obtained from a previous hospital where he had been admitted and was diagnosed with septicemia. Despite his many serious medical conditions and the hospitalist noting that at one point my husband surviving his hospital stay wasn't guaranteed, a colonoscopy was performed within 4 days of his admission to the hospital. He had scrawled his initials on the consent form without reading it because his glasses were at home. He was hard of hearing but two of the consulting doctors wondered if he had dementia. (He did not).

He was severely depressed while in the hospital due to visiting restrictions limited to phone calls --not being informed of his medical condition--lack of sleep and food due to test requirements. Additionally, in his medical records, I was informed by a doctor before the colonoscopy that if cancer was found, treatment was NIL because of his many medical conditions. (This was later verified by two oncologists) At my insistence he was discharged home six days later.

Twelve days later I was with my husband when his heart stopped.

My Motivation and Inspiration

I feel compelled to share this experience to alert both patients and those affected by the care of patients to discuss with the patient what the patient wants done rather than making decisions for them. To alert those who are not aware that despite the urge to trust the patient's care totally to doctors and hospitals that the best course of action is to question and intervene if necessary.

In my husband's case it wasn't until six months after his death that an article by a doctor clued me into why the colonoscopy was so harmful to an 85 year old man with so many problems. I have since filed a claim against the hospitalist and doctor who performed the colonoscopy with no answer yet. I have filed a claim against the consulting doctor who referred my husband to the doctor who performed the colonoscopy. (It was ruled that what she did was correct). I filed against the hospital and it was ruled that after the hospital visit the L&C was not able to validate through direct observation-interviews--and/or review of documents--my claim was unsubstantiated. When I mentioned that my husband INITIALED the consent form he was unable to read it because he didn't have his glasses I was told that I couldn't prove it.

The point of all of this is not to discourage anyone not to file a claim but to alert patients and their loved ones that gathering information and support to use in the best interest of the patient is imperative when the medical treatment is not in the best interest of the patient.

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