Grief a lonely place in the health care system

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  1. Shawn Tracy

    Thank you for a most timely and thought-provoking article. While there is growing awareness of the stress and strain that family caregivers endure while caring for a loved one who is unwell, not enough attention is paid to the fact that death does not mark the end of the caregiver journey. The grim reality is that caregivers can continue to struggle after the period of caregiving concludes… and, in our highly-fragmented “system” (I use that word loosely), this caregiver distress and grief often goes undetected and therefore untreated. It is long past time that we return to an approach in which the family is the unit of care. Thanks again for raising awareness of this pressing social issue.

  2. A senior's friend

    When survivors of perceived medical injury complain to the College, or initiate a lawsuit, they are often suffering a grief reaction. I know a senior who had wrong patient surgery and his grief turned into complicated grief. His complicated grief was helped somewhat by my listening to him, repeatedly, as he told his story to me. It was helped by my investigating what had happened to him. He had wrong patient surgery, but at the time of his lawsuit, he didn’t know it. He only knew that before the surgery he was well, and after the surgery he wasn’t, and he blamed the doctor. I blamed the doctor as well, but today, I can see that the doctor could have been experiencing a “complicated grief” at the time of the wrong patient surgery. Quite possibility, he was suffering from sleep deprivation as well.

    The CMPA should have given the senior an apology and offered him some compensation. They should have cared for the doctor proactively; ensured he received healing from what appears to me to be complicated grief. Instead, the CMPA got a biased medical expert to defend the care provided.

    Today, wrong patient surgery is considered a “never event”. In my opinion, it should not have been defended, and it certainly should not have been successfully defended. The CMPA states that they “Empower better healthcare”, and they learn from cases which are “resolved”. This case was “settled” but it was never “resolved”.

    The CMPA intimidated the senior into dropping his lawsuit; that was the settlement. Two years after the “settlement”, the senior put in a complaint to the College. The CMPA had learned that they could successfully defend wrong patient surgery and from this learning, they were able to successfully defend against this gentleman’s complaint. The College completely dismissed this senior’s complaint.

    The senior appealed the College decision, but the CMPA successfully defended the College’s decision. The Ombudsman was contacted, but he did not have jurisdiction over the College, just the appeal process, and the process was carried out correctly, therefore there was no justice for the injured patient who had wrong patient surgery.

    The CMPA is a powerful organization that protects the reputation of Canadian doctors. I believe Canadian doctors, through their CMPA, causes injured patients Complicated Grief, and I believe this needs to be looked at proactively. Complicated Grief can be proactively prevented with “no-fault” for medical errors. Learning can be done from the error, and further harm to injured patients and additional harm to the doctor and his subsequent patients can be avoided.

    • Margaret deMello

      RE CMPA

      So true. The cavalier and careless attitude of GP’s these days is despicable. True of specialists as well. They seem to be unaccountable. Part of the problem however, are provincial restrictions which limit the doctor patient ratio, and create long waitlists by rationing services through gatekeeping. So there are diagnostic and treatment delays, a crises model, and slipshod ethics, in a big way. This long ago reached crises proportions and still nothing has been resolved.

  3. Margaret deMello

    No, people are not getting the support they need, and that is an understatement.
    Compassionate leave benefits, bereavement workshops? For Pete’s sake, patients are getting kicked out of palliative care if they don’t die in the time expected. I know this from experience, and it’s not hard to validate, however, it seems easy, maybe preferable to ignore these days. Relatives are intimidated and placed in conflict with physicians who want to hasten death in order to free up beds, for the sake of cost effectiveness. There is absolutely no doubt about these conditions and I’m not so sure that loss of a child is greater, or more deserving of decent care, than someone’s mother, lover or spouse of 60 years, or for that matter, one’s own impending death. I don’t think we can make assumptions about the bottomless depths of grief when a dear one dies, we cannot presume to measure it. We cannot ration medical care based on an arbitrary value of one’s loss. (Although to be sure, in my experience the loss of a child tends to deeply touch more people, is more poignant, and is a particularly cruel trauma for parents ) Margaret deMello, MSW, Vancouver

    Pressure is placed on terminally ill, vulnerable patients and distressed caregivers/families to artificially hasten a loved one’s death…instead of using the time they have to prepare and grieve. We are also moving , well we now have in place a medical system that is more like American medicine, than Canadians’ vision of Medicare.

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