The purpose of this letter is to generate public awareness of organizations and avenues to pursue if you or a loved one have or suspect that you have been affected by a medical error. Much useful information is in the book After the Error: Speaking out About Patient Safety to Save Lives by Susan McIver and Robin Wyndham, which I quote from towards the end of this letter.
It has been almost 10 years since my heart attack was misdiagnosed. The biggest challenge after the misdiagnosis was being correctly diagnosed… a process that took eight months. Trying to get answers about how such a misdiagnosis could have happened or even the hope of an apology was out of the question.
With all the excellent medical personnel I have met, certain medical personnel make me very afraid for anyone seeking medical attention. In my case, no doctor ever admitted to making a mistake and never offered me an apology. If a person doesn’t acknowledge a mistake, how can the same mistake be avoided in the future? The same goes for not being sorry.
Since so much time has passed, I fully expect to be “over” my experience since I am adjusted to living with the consequences of that experience as much as possible. Instead, I find myself increasingly distrustful and avoidant of doctors. The following quote sheds light on what I am experiencing.
Dr. Philip C. Hebert, chair of Research Ethics Board at the University of Toronto, defines an ethical emergency: “Ethical emergencies are those situations where there is the potential for a complete loss of trust in the health-care professionals and the health-care institutions by the survivors. The longer the failure to explain and apologize continues, the greater the chasm between the survivors and the professionals…” (p. 122).
Please stand up for yourself! If you believe a mistake is being made or has been made, the continuing silence ensures more people will be negatively impacted by the weaknesses in our medical system.
There are many resources for those who believe they’ve been misdiagnosed, including the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (patientsafetyinstitute.ca), Patients for Patient Safety Canada (patientsforpatientsafety.ca), Safer Health Care Now! (saferhealthcarenow.ca), Patients’ Association of Canada (patientsassociation.ca), Institute for Safe Medication Practices in Canada (ismp-canada.org) and the Canadian Institute for Health Information (cihi.ca).