Jumping to the Wrong Conclusions

April 27, 2009 by  
Filed under For Healthcare Professionals

On Grey’s Anatomy the other night, there was a family of three siblings waiting for their mother’s death. They seemed rather inconvenienced and one kept asking, “How soon will she die because I have a plane to catch?” At first the characters and the audience all thought, “How insensitive, how uncaring.” But as the scene and story progressed, the audience realized that we had jumped to conclusions. This was a devoted family that been flying in every time their loved one was at death’s door for a few years. And they had said their goodbyes and grieved, over and over again. They weren’t insensitive, they were exhausted. And at this point they thought they were just going through the motions one more time and she would recover. One sibling even said, “We love her and want to be with her when she dies.” And when the woman did die, the three siblings, sat down with her, cried and asked if they could spend more time with her before the body was taken away.

In watching this, I am reminded how easily we jump to conclusions about other people. We judge them before learning more about the situation. We assume the worst. I have been guilty of expecting the worst out of someone. I have learned to give people the benefit of the doubt. When I encounter someone who is being difficult or uncaring or rude, I remember that I don’t know what just happened in their life. Maybe they just found out that they have cancer or they just found out their spouse has filed for divorce. We just don’t know. So I ask, “Is there anything I can do to help? Is there anything I need to understand?”

I have also been guilty of being the overwhelmed caregiver who starts to care a little less. I hope that the nurses understood that caregiving is a long journey. And that when I visited my aunt, and could only bear to stay a few minutes instead of my usual longer visit, that they didn’t judge me but were compassionate. I hope they didn’t whisper behind my back. But, I don’t know. As healthcare professionals, we have to start from compassion and work from there.

Unethical behavior on Grey’s Anatomy

February 13, 2009 by  
Filed under For Patients & Families

This won’t be the first or last time I will need to comment on unethical behavior on medical shows.

I am never surprised to see unethical medical behavior on television but I worry that the general public will think that this is how medicine is done.

Grey’s Anatomy had an episode last week in which one doctor went to speak to a patient’s loved one about donating their organs to a young boy who was dying. That would never happen in a non-TV hospital because doctors are not allowed to speak to the family about organ donation.

The only person who should be talking to the family is the representative from the local organ procurement agency. This protects doctors from having a conflict of interest by having to be both the person who is trying to save the patient and the person trying to take the organs after the death.

Another unethical thing that happened was what occurred after the doctor asked the wife for her husband’s organs and the wife said “no”.

Since other organs weren’t available for the dying boy, the doctor went back and put more pressure on the wife. This wouldn’t happen either. In medicine, we are supposed to respect people’s decisions, especially when they say no. Organ donation can not be a coercive process. You can ask, but you can’t push or force people to decide to donate their organs.

To make sure your family isn’t put in this situation without knowing your wishes, make sure you tell people what you would want in that situation. If you want to donate your organs after your death, then register your wishes with your local department of motor vehicles either online or in person. If you don’t want to donate, then you should write that down in your advance healthcare directive.

I believe in organ donation because organ donation saves lives. Maybe someday it will save yours.

Got a question? Ask Viki.