Posted: October 22, 2020
As you can imagine, lawyers like me who routinely handle medical malpractice cases can be pretty nervous when it comes time to need medical care ourselves. This point was driven home to me in last six months when I needed separate surgeries on my knee and my shoulder during the pandemic. Like everyone else, I didn't want to have any surgery at all-- and certainly did not want to be in a hospital during the height of the pandemic. As a medical malpractice lawyer I also have file cabinets full of examples of the terrible things that can go wrong during surgery. People get badly hurt, get horrible infections, become crippled and die during surgery. Few people know that better than medical malpractice attorneys .
Having handled medical malpractice cases for over 30 years, I have dozens if not hundreds of horror stories I can tell you about medical malpractice during surgery.
So it was with a great deal of trepidation that I confronted my own need for surgery. Not once but twice in the last six months.
From my clients’ medical negligence cases I knew exactly what could go wrong in the surgeries I was having on my knee and shoulder: I could show you files of patients who were crippled with pain or inability to use an arm or leg by medical malpractice in the same surgeries I just had.
When the anesthesiologist came to give me a nerve block for my shoulder surgery, I knew that if he was off just a little bit he could paralyze my left lung forever, leaving me gasping for breath after a short walk or a flight of stairs. And I knew that if the general anesthesia went wrong, I could wake up a vegetable or not at all.
Fortunately, my surgeons were excellent, as were the anesthesiologists and other professionals who took care of me. I was very impressed with their obvious competence and concern. It was also obvious that all of these people were highly trained and were strictly following safety rules as they were doing their jobs—everything was double and triple checked. Everybody was communicating with each other and with me.
Safety rules in medicine are there for a reason, and the reason is that they save lives. When the fourth staff person confirmed what was being done and why, and I saw the doctors and nurses check and recheck their findings, I knew I was in good hands. Of course I picked the best surgeons in the city, and doing what I do for a living, I know how to do that. These doctors are at the top of their fields and highly experienced. They could easily have skipped a step or cut some corners—but they didn’t, and they won’t. The best doctors never do, and the best hospitals don’t, either. They will follow all the steps, check and recheck and check again—because they know those checks are there for a good reason, and that not doing a check could cost a life.
So for me the repetition wasn’t annoying: it calmed me down. And it emphasized something I already knew: there is no excuse for doctors and hospitals cutting corners or skipping steps. If the very best doctors and hospitals in Dallas take the time to follow every step, then for sure there is no excuse for any other hospital or doctor to skip steps. The best are the best for a reason, and that reason is they take the time, and care enough, to follow the rules.