My brother died because of a medical error: he was effectively anesthesized to death. There error was in the construction of the new ED that he was admitted to, and the oxygen and anesthesia lines became mixed. I like to believe that this sort of error could not possibly happen today. I haven't thought of him in more than a decade. He died more than three decades ago. I thought about him today because I was on a round table discussion for the Kaiser Permanente Total Health Blog this morning. When asked what topics the blog should speak to, one commenter talked about gag orders in settlements for medical errors, and a petition to stop the practice.
There was no gag order in my brother's case; As the news already had it, no gag order could have been imposed. . My parents found out because of a front page news article published in the local paper. I found out because a friend told me about the story (my family had tried to hide it from us, I was 12 and my younger brother 9 when it happened). My brother probably would have died anyway without the mixup. My parent's anger at the situation was more about how they found out, and the new grief imposed upon their children because of it. If the hospital had contacted them, and told them about the mistake, they might very well have been forgiving. My father would have no part of the money. It was, as he called it "blood money". That settlement paid for my brother's education, and mine. I like to think that the real justice in that was that my education (such as it was) led me to the place that I am today, and that what I do in Health IT standards to prevent similar mix-ups in communication between providers that could equally as harmful.
One of the discussion topics that went on during the round table was the idea of connecting diverse communities into and around total health. As @ReginaHolliday put it, you really cannot tell if a person driving a trash truck wouldn't have an interest in #HealthIT. From my perspective, I never would have expected an artist to have an interest in the topic either. But so she does, as I well know.
What I do know is the importance of these social connections that I make across diverse backgrounds. I'm not a doctor, but every now and then I jump onto #MDchat just to see what Docs are saying. I've become myself a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine because of my connections with other engaged patients. Listening to what they are saying is vitally important to what I do.
The value of creating a connected, diverse community around the topic of total health is a terrific one. After all, it is through community that we can make a better world. The connection I made this morning is one that might not have happened had it not been for the round table discussion this morning. It renews my spirit to rediscover part of my past that I had forgotten, and to see after thirty years a resolution that my father, also departed, might be proud of. And damn it, yes, I am crying.