January 18, 2009

A Shock for the ED Doc

Hawaii doctor didn't realize beating victim was her father
When Dr. D treated a savagely beaten man Tuesday at The Queen's Medical Center, she did not recognize the victim as her father.

Dr D didn't learn the truth until "later that evening when my brother called me," she said at a news conference yesterday.

"It was a shock to me," Dr D said as tears tracked down her face.
My dad brought this piece of news to my attention last night. *sigh* I cannot even imagine the shock and horror that she must have felt, realizing that the brutalized victim she triaged and treated was in fact her father.

"Has this ever happened to you?" My dad asked. "Well, it's only a matter of time..." Hrm. I hope I am never put in this situation. A chill will certainly run down my spine whenever I'm in the ER though and a person rolls in beaten beyond recognition. It will remind me though, that the best treatment for a patient is to care for them as if they were a member of your family.

The irony is that knowing you're treating a family member suddenly changes everything and you risk losing objectivity. This conflict of interest can manifest itself as a desire to "do everything" and feel the need to be supremely heroic which may in fact extend their suffering. So I think, the solution is to treat all patients as family but refuse to treat family. Sad but necessary to provide quality care based on experience and judgment rather than emotion and stubbornness.

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