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Medical Misses, Mistakes, and Consequences

The title may sound like another indictment of the medical field and I am not at all about to do that here. But, I want to talk about the consequences people can experience when mistakes are made in medicine, regardless of why. Mistakes, oversights, or whatever word or phrase we use; there can be consequences and some will be serious.

That raises some questions I know, and some will lead right down the rabbit hole, but I will avoid the narrative, which takes the narrative into that place. Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to make light of the serious consequences I have seen, and one I will share with you, which I experienced first hand.

I am prompted to write this right now because I spoke with two people today who are dealing with the results of poor attention to their care. Fortunately it is not widespread in my view but I am reminded again about the importance of us, that is we as “patients” must do our best to understand the basics at the very least, when it comes to our care.

My own experience in this was troubling and eye opening. Some years ago while I was getting a CT scan as part of the investigation relating to my hepatitis C condition, it was discovered that I had a small tumor on my right adrenal gland. I was told that it should be monitored as it may grow and cause me problems in the future. The belief was, I suppose, that it was not an issue because of its small size at that point in time.

Fast forward to 4 years ago when I asked my primary care doctor about the monitoring, as it had not been mentioned. He had not received the report from the scan and knew nothing about it until I mentioned it. He requested the report and I was sent to see an endocrinologist. The short version is that it was determined that it had grown and was continuing to grow and by then was a whole new condition called Cushing’s Syndrome, and there was a surgery to remove a tumor the size of a small apple along with my adrenal gland, and followed by drug therapy.

Was this all caused by a mistake or a system failure? A fair question to me, which raises something I have learned and teach now, which is the importance of us, we “patients” being engaged in our care and treatment, whatever the illness or condition.

The case I shared from my own medical history illustrates how easy it can be for things to get lost in the system. I have no real interest in assigning blame because it would not change what happened to me. I did make the doctors aware of what happened and it is my hope that they learned about a weakness in their system or process. I can hope. Inform yourself or those who you are caring for, stay involved in your own care, and don’t be afraid to speak up. These are themes I have talked about over and over and still think are key in assuring that mistakes are lessened or not made, to ensure that important issues are not missed or forgotten.

Some people I know keep spreadsheets and calendars, and I support this kind of diligence, but most of us will not do that level of personal care management, and it should not seem so foreign to you that your care providers don’t keep the best of records and things are missed or mistakes are made.
Prevention is better than the potential outcomes of mistakes and misses.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.