Prevent a lawsuit, act ethically.

By Jenna Reece MS2 Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons

Many fantastic take-home thoughts from Day 2 of Telluride.  Hearing the medical error stories, I couldn’t help but reflect on my main reason for being here, and for working towards improving the medical profession: I want to be a part of a profession that I can believe in.

A lot of the stories that we have heard reflect a willingness to see the world through one myopic lens, rather than stepping back, and considering why we all went into medicine in the first place.

For example, we have heard terrible stories about the way that hospitals have treated the victims of medical error.  These actions, to me, reflect fear.  We are so terrified of lawsuits, that we fail to step back and consider the ethics of their situation, and the humanity of our victims.  The irony of the lengths we go to to cover up errors is that if hospitals and doctors actually dealt with problems in an ethical way, then lawsuits would be unnecessary.  It seems to me that lawsuits are a patient’s way of trying to even a power imbalance that leaves patients feeling powerless. If we act ethically, and empower our patients, then they should know we are on their side, and they won’t need to seek advocates, because we will give them reason to trust that we are their advocates.