I recently read a New York Times article titled “losing My Leg to a Medical Error“. The author, Frederick Southwick, a physician and professor in a Florida medical school, describes how, seventeen years ago, he had a routine surgery on his left Achilles’ tendon. To prevent bleeding during the procedure, a pressurized cuff was placed above his left knee. Apparently, the cuff was left on too long, and, unbeknownst to him, damaged his arteries. He didn’t find this out until just last summer when he experienced a sudden and total blockage of blood flow to his lower leg leading to amputation. Turns out the arteries, damaged by that cuff 17 years earlier, had slowly scarred, hardened and calcified, leading to the belated sudden blockage of blood flow.
Rare event? Probably. But medical malpractice is not.
Ironically, Dr. Southwick has, for the past two decades, been studying how to prevent errors in health care. In his case, he knows how the error could have been prevented; they could have used either (1) an alarm to remind the surgeon how long the cuff had been in place or (2) a cuff that automatically deflates after the prescribed time.
To prevent such malpractice, Dr. Southwick believes the medical profession must borrow from the manufacturing industry’s play book. For example, machine manufacturers, stung by product liability lawsuits, have responded by incorporating almost fool-proof alarm and automatic shut-off systems.
Dr. Southerwick wonders; if the manufacturing industry can devise such safety improvements, why is the medical profession so slow to do the same?
Well Dr. Southerwick, I have an answer, but it is one that will piss off a lot of docs (maybe even you!): In a word, arrogance. Manufacturers are by nature pragmatic problem solvers with both feet on the ground while physicians are taught early on to believe they are superior beings whose judgment should not be second-guessed by mere mortals. Well, not all physicians. My brother and father are certainly exceptions!
But generally, a culture of arrogance does pervade the medical profession and blinds it to its own shortcomings. And if you are blind to your failings you can’t fix them. That’s why medical malpractice lawyers have such an important role. We are like miracle workers. We make the blind see!
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com Central Syracuse NY Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.