Support for ObGyn versus “evidence” for attorney
While every clinician recognizes the need to support the practi- tioner involved in a significant medical error, I found it puzzling that Dr. Weiss’ article did not mention our constant after-the-event associate, the personal injury attorney. How are we to provide the needed relief for the practitioner’s emotional distress without handing ammunition to the plaintiff’s lawyer?
E. Darryl Barnes, MD
Experienced being the second victim
As Dr. Weiss states in her article, patients and their families, the first victims, are not the only ones affected by medical errors. I was involved in a medication error on a labor and delivery unit more than 20 years ago, and I was the second victim. There were also countless others. You are correct when you state that physicians, and others in medicine, do not support colleagues who have experienced a medical error. I agree with Dr. Wu’s observation that lack of empathy by peers is distressing. Symptoms of depression, burnout, decreased quality of life, and feelings of distress, guilt, and shame can occur in the second victim. I hope more people will get on board to use The Joint Commission toolkit to assist health care organizations in developing a second-victim program.
Carol Permiceo, RN
Long Island, New York
Dr. Weiss responds
I thank Dr. Barnes for his comments. The purpose of this article was mainly to assist people in establishing institutional support systems for providers when medical errors occur. Often we are not aware of litigation until some time well after the event. The TRUST second-victim support program and other programs are for immediate first aid for the provider and the team. Concerning the plaintiff’s ammunition, please remember that the purpose of these support systems, whether immediate or ongoing, is to discuss the emotional impact of the case on the provider, not the clinical details of the case.
I appreciate Ms. Permiceo sharing her story. As you probably have figured out, my interest in this area stems from my own experiences with medical errors (one in particular) and unanticipated outcomes. I hope by talking about it and validating our feelings (we are only human, after all) others will suffer less and come forward.
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