Pre-Telluride: A Simple Medical Error

The hard work put in by healthcare teams can so quickly be negated by a simple medical error. Our patients are our priority, our very inspiration, and the idea that something we did or allowed caused harm to the patient is sobering. My friend’s son was born with a cystic kidney, needing to be removed soon after delivery. What should have been a relatively simple procedure became complicated when the doctor unknowingly removed the entire horseshoed kidney. 14 years and innumerable complications later, their family is still living with the repercussions of the medical error.

Perhaps it’s different when there’s no way to deny an error has been committed… there was no possible coverup. For the first few hours after the near-fatal mistake, though, the family was kept in the dark. Medical professionals were frantically running around them, but there was not much left to do.

In their case, they thank the Lord for bringing emotional healing. They ran into the surgeon who botched the operation at the hospital one day, and it proved to be such a cathartic experience for them. The family had already been working through the complexities of forgiveness, but hearing the physician’s heartfelt, tearful apology truly helped them move forward.

This is just one example of the cost of medical error. Surely we can do better, right? I want to believe that is so. I’m looking forward to this week at Telluride as we look at how we, as the next gen of medical professionals can secure patient safety and our own accountability.