Last night I read the heart wrenching post by Diane on the blog Chad Life Us about the day that she lost her 17 year old son. I cannot imagine anything worse than the death of a child, a child whom you have nurtured, cherished and watched grow over any length of time. I cannot imagine how I would deal with that loss. Her post is not only about the death of her son but about the heartless negligence of a doctor and hospital. Had he been in different hands he may well have survived. I feel sick just thinking of it.
By chance right now I am writing this draft in a notebook while in a doctor’s waiting room, for a check up. There are multiple coloured notices on the wall.
“All patients need to pay an administration fee, Bankmed R30, Profmed R30, Discovery R30, all other medical aids R80”
“Notice levies are payable by all family members consulting the doctor”
“Patients with no appointment will have to wait to be seen by the doctor. A emergency fee will be charged, as proposed by the medical aid scheme code 0146”
“Patients with multiple problems shall be charged according to medical aid scheme rules a prolonged visit code 0129”
“Private patients R330”
“Please pay your shortfall from the medical aid before leaving the consulting room, Thank You”
1 message shouts out, we are here for MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. The medical profession is most often chosen not as a calling, not born from a desire to heal and restore but to attain prestige, social standing and MONEY. It would be heartwarming if these notices were balanced by a print of the Hippocratic Oath.
“Hippocratic Oath: Modern Version
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.
I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.
—Written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, and used in many medical schools today.”
I don’t begrudge doctors earning well, but financial focus leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t feel that my health is of much concern at all, I get no sense of caring or compassion in these rooms, or the rooms of the majority of medical professionals.
Diane’s story reminded me of two instances where doctors failed me. In the case of my daughter Acacia a doctor gave an order which would have ended her life when I was 9 weeks pregnant. For those reading this because you have experienced bleeding or spotting during pregnancy let me start at the beginning. My son Fjord was born when I was 39. I had spotting and bleeding throughout the pregnancy and could not relax and enjoy the pregnancy. My gynaecologist prescribed a 1/4 dose of dispirin (aspirin) until a certain point in the pregnancy, I think it was around 16 weeks.
I fell pregnant again just over a year later. Smidgen was due around Fjord’s 2nd birthday. Once again I had spotting early on. I phoned my gynaecologists rooms to make an appointment, only to be told that the practice was closing as the doctor was relocating from South Africa to Australia. I was told that I could collect my file, but when I did, there was pretty much nothing in it. I wanted to give my new gynaecologist / obstetrician the notes from my pregnancy with Fjord. I was told that the notes could not be given to me. I don’t know how I forgot but I did not remember that I had been told to take aspirin for the bleeding. My new doctor did not prescribe aspirin. I had a check up and was delighted to see Smidgen’s little heartbeat on the scan screen. A few days later at nine weeks after another bleed the heartbeat was gone. We lost Smidgen. I had a DNC, it was not done properly and a few days later had to go through the trauma again. For some cruel reason I had to go to the maternity ward for this harrowing procedure.
I was given one last chance to have another child and fell pregnant with Acacia. I was 42 when she was born. Once again I had spotting and bleeding from the start. This time I had put myself on light dose of aspirin. One night, again at 9 weeks pregnant, I woke and went to the toilet. To my horror the bleeding was heavy and there was what looked like at least one clot. Thanks to the internet I had learned that bleeding with clots was a certain sign of miscarriage. I drove myself to the hospital and told the nurse that I was having a miscarriage. I was admitted. In the early hours, a nurse came to me with a drip. She said that she had contacted my gynaecologist / obstetrician and the drip had been prescribed. Had I been younger or less questioning I would have left it at that, putting my trust in the doctors hands. Instead of accepting the drip I asked what was in it. It was medication to start contractions. On hearing this, I refused the drip. I said that before I took labour inducing medication to void the pregnancy I needed to see a sonar scan with no heartbeat. A few hours later (by this time the bleeding had decreased) my doctor came to see me. She did a scan and there on the screen little Acacia’s heart was beating away. Had I not stopped the drip she would never have been born. I would not have my precious little girl. I continued to have bleeding and spotting on and off through the pregnancy but all that matters is that he is here and healthy. Obviously I changed doctors for the rest of the pregnancy and birth.
I never took action against the gynaecologist who made the potentially fatal call. She was very nice and I believed that she simply lacked experience. For convenience now over 4 years later I made an appointment with her for a check up. When my appointment was confirmed I was told that I must pay R400 over and above standard medical aid rates. I cancelled the appointment which is why I’m sitting here in a GP’s waiting room.