In less than a month, I have received 2 complaints from 2 patients. The nature of their complaints was their dissatisfaction at the way they were treated by the doctors.
The first was a HIV+ patient who was admitted for chronic diarrhoea. Because he was earlier diagnosed with pulmonary TB and was started on treatment a couple of months earlier, he was anxious to know if his chest findings on x-ray has resolved. An x-ray was ordered by me when I reviewed the patient but I was not there to review it. Being anxious, he asked the ward doctor twice in a day regarding his x-ray. He must have annoyed the doctor with his persistent pestering because the reply he received was this:
“Don’t tell me what to do! I am doctor! You are a HIV POSITIVE patient. You will die soon anyway!”, all said in a loud voice within earshot of everyone else in the ward.
The patient, being shocked beyond words, and deeply humiliated, asked for an AOR (at own risk) discharge from the hospital even though he was not well yet at the time.
The other incident occurred last weekend. A middle aged gentleman was admitted for decompensated alcoholic liver disease (he presented with swollen legs and ‘balls’). He has already been in the ward for about a week and his symptoms were subsiding but he wanted to be well faster. So, he asked the on call house officer what could be done to make his swellings go off faster. This was the reply he got:
“Your liver is all damaged. I think you had better count your days. There is no cure for you. It’s because you drank so much. You will die soon.”
Technically I wouldn’t fault the doctor for what she said because they are all true (well, not quite because there is an option of liver transplant) but I feel perhaps it could have been said with a great measure of sympathy and compassion.
I think it’s high time medical schools start teaching students the ropes of effective communication. Sigh…
Wed, 300108 @ 0700; I really dislike Wednesdays.