If I could ask Physicians to do just one thing ….

If I could ask Physicians to do just one thing ….

If I could ask Physicians to do just one thing …. 150 150 Lauren Ellerman

If I, as a daughter, mother, patient, plaintiff’s medical malpractice attorney could ask Physicians to do just one thing, it would be – TELL ME WHAT YOU TELL THE OTHER DOCTORS IN MY MEDICAL RECORDS. 

That may seem like an odd request, but please, if you have a minute, or two, keep reading. 

So often we get calls from families who have suffered a health tragedy, or a loss, and they have so many unanswered questions. So many holes in the story of care and in a vacuum of information they assume the silence is covering up a mistake, or worse.

So often we get calls from people who don’t necessarily think malpractice occurred, but they don’t know what occurred to their loved one leaving them consumed by fears and concern.

So often, only 1/10th of the story is provided to the patient or her family, leaving an incomplete picture of one’s care or health.

So often our investigation provides the answers they needed – revealing not that malpractice or negligent care occurred, but rather negligent and insufficient information was provided about the care. 

This week, I received some truthfully heartbreaking news – my Mother was unable to breathe on her own, and on a ventilator. I assumed the worst. Brain damage. I assumed she could not survive extubation and that she would die. I called and demanded to speak to every nurse and doctor who saw her. I took notes. I asked questions, requested results, and asked for follow up answers. Amazingly – she survived and is at home – praise God. But given what I do for a living, I knew the story I had been told in small pieces over the phone, was not the whole story.

I was told – she had a respiratory event. I was told, they were investigating heart failure as a related cause. I was told very little else. The discharge records state she had been diagnosed with “shortness of breath” and nothing more. 

The records, all 1400 pages of them, reflect a unique story – unlike the one that was provided to my family in bits and pieces. They also reflect she should have been discharged with medications she was not provided. Serious and life changing medications. 

While I know a Physician’s job is to provide the care, it should be someone’s job to explain the care being provided. Really explain it – treating the patients and their family with an element of equality and respect. Assuming that even without a medical degree we are capable of understanding how our health may be in the present and in the future. That is my one wish. Treat me, my mother, my clients and all of us – as equals. Take the time to explain what you are telling eachother in the chart. Take the time to explain what this means for our today, and tomorrow. 

When Physicians are over booked, and paid for numbers of procedures not successful outcomes or phone calls, there is little time for explanation.  As a result, the total picture of care and treatment is left a silent story told only in written medical record, and not to bodies experiencing the care. 

Even patients like me who ask questions – aren’t given the full story. And frankly, if that is the norm in our system of healthcare – the system sucks. And so, I will ask one more time – a favor. Dear Physicians, Nurses, NP’s, PAs, providers of care – talk to us. Tell us what the records say. Tell us the whole story, the good the bad and the scary. When you do, we can be better advocates for ourselves, and help you in turn. 




About the author

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.

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