Can a conversation change an outcome?

Can a conversation change an outcome?!! This was the question that reverberated in my head after watching the video “The Faces of Medical Errors…From Tears to Transparency: The Story of Michael Skolnik”. It was painful to watch the story and see the pain in the eyes of the parents as they tried to relieve the whole ordeal. Across the room I could hear sobs and the expression of anger and sadness at the eventual outcome. A family had their son taking away from them.

As I engaged with my colleagues during the discussion, we were so quick to point fingers and express a disgust at the process that led to the outcome. However deep one, I reflect on moments when we walk into the room with “informed consents” with a sole purpose of getting a signature to legitimize our intervention, never giving the patient or family members enough time to process all the information we had just given them. We get upset when the patient or their loved ones ‘have the guts’ to ask us questions to understand the procedure or inquire about other options to our intervention.

Often time us as physicians we walk around with “Halos” over our head never wanting to be confronted or questioned, because we can’t be always right! While it is important we initiate conversations with our patients and their families and provide them all the facts, it is never our place to make decisions for them. We are therefore obliged to be mindful and realize decision making has to be shared.

Going back to the Michael Skolnik story; a conversation between the provider, Michael and the parents may have led to a different outcome.

Yes! A conversation cannot just change an outcome but also save a Life!