Showing 141 - 146 of 146 annotations tagged with the keyword "Medical Mistakes"

A Small, Good Thing

Carver, Raymond

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story concerns the death of a child and failures of communication. Scotty, an eight year old, is hit by a car on his birthday. His mother had ordered a birthday cake but "there were no pleasantries between" her and the baker. Scotty is hospitalized, unconscious, and the cake is forgotten. Dr. Francis reassures the anxious parents that all will be well when the boy wakes up.

The baker phones the parents’ home in the dead of night (when he does his baking) because the cake hasn’t been picked up, but they can’t figure out who he is or what he wants. At the same time the doctors and staff can’t and won’t answer their questions about why Scotty isn’t waking up. Dr. Francis comes to the hospital to check the child, looking tanned, meticulously dressed, as if he has just been out for the evening- he has a life outside of the hospital, but the parents have none. When they do run home, separately, to take a break, the baker torments them with his mysterious late-night calls. Their confusion and isolation deepen. The child dies-"a one-in-a-million circumstance."

The mother finally realizes that it is the baker who has been calling and tracks him down, enraged. She unleashes all of the anger which she had been unable to express to the doctors. The baker is stunned to learn about the child’s death; he begs forgiveness and offers them warm delicious cinnamon rolls. "Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this" and they are comforted.

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The Lost Art of Healing

Lown, Bernard

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This autobiographical account of Dr. Lown's five decades of practice and research in cardiovascular medicine is both a history of the field and a history of a man passionately interested in people and healing. The book is divided into six sections: Hearing the Patient: The Art of Diagnosis; Healing the Patient: The Art of Doctoring; Healing the Patient: Science; Incurable Problems; The Rewards of Doctoring; and The Art of Being a Patient.

The first three sections comprise the bulk of the book: Lown chronicles his early medical training and career through stories of memorable patients, anecdotes about key role models (particularly Dr. Samuel A. Levine), and histories of medical mistakes, diagnostic acumen, and his remarkable research innovations. These achievements include the introduction of intravenous lidocaine, cardioversion and defibrillation, and development of the coronary care unit.

The core of the book, however, is about how deeply Lown cares for his patients. He states, “This book is a small recompense to my patients, ultimately my greatest teachers, who helped me to become a doctor.” The book contains many reflections on medical practice, such as this definition of medical wisdom: “It is the capacity to comprehend a clinical problem at its mooring, not in an organ, but in a human being.”

In a thoughtful chapter on death and dying, Lown muses on his emotional and spiritual responses to encounters with death, and bemoans the medical profession's increasing tendency to “put technology between us and our patients, to spare us the grief of failing to confront our own mortality.” In the final chapter, Lown takes an unusual twist, and writes a treatise to patients on how to get the doctor to truly pay attention to them and what are reasonable expectations to have of one's doctor.

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Jean Beicke

Williams, William Carlos

Last Updated: Jan-28-1997

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The doctor-narrator is working in a hospital during the Great Depression. The pediatric ward cares for many children left there by families unable to feed or care for them. The doctor sometimes thinks the children should just be allowed to die. One particular child captures his interest. She has a high fever and he cannot figure out why. Her condition becomes progressively worse and she dies. It turns out that she had meningitis. Perhaps he could have saved her if he had made the correct diagnosis. Yet, he doesn't feel guilty.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Two physicians sit in the Emergency Room of a Kansas City hospital on Christmas Day. The narrator's references to the incompetence or past errors of each is slipped quietly into the text as the story unfolds.

The doctors are telling the narrator of their most interesting encounter of this holiday season: a distraught adolescent, in a religious frenzy, had come in requesting castration for his "awful lust." The two docs managed to blunder the encounter so sufficiently that the boy left, only to return a few hours later bleeding dangerously from his penile self-amputation. The self-centered conversation returns to verbal ego-play between the two physicians, without a hint that either has considered the magnitude of the medical malfeasance against the boy.

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Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Mr. Utterson is a London lawyer who is a friend of Dr. Jekyll. Jekyll gave up his regular practice to experiment with non-traditional medicine. Utterson is concerned because Jekyll has written a will that leaves all his money to his new partner Mr. Hyde. Utterson has heard bad things of Hyde and disliked him at first sight. The lawyer thinks his friend is being blackmailed.

One day, the lawyer is asked to identify the body of a murdered man, Sir Danvers Carew, one of Utterson’s clients. Hyde is suspected of the murder, but he has disappeared. Jekyll swears that he has not seen Hyde and has broken with him forever. The case remains unsolved and Jekyll becomes more sociable than he had been.

Suddenly, though, he locks himself into his laboratory, yelling to the servants through the door, directing them to gather chemicals for him. The servants recognize a change in his voice and think that their master has been murdered; another man has taken his place in the lab. They call Utterson who breaks down the door. On the floor lies Hyde, who has killed himself with poison. Sadly, Utterson assumes Hyde returned and killed Jekyll, but the doctor’s body is nowhere to be found.

He does find, however, a letter in which Jekyll explains his relationship to Hyde. Jekyll had sometimes indulged in debauches which, if discovered, could have ruined his reputation and of which he is ashamed. Pondering this split in his personality, he decides to find a way to separate his two beings. Jekyll creates a potion that releases his evil side, Mr. Hyde. Hyde is shorter and smaller than Jekyll, having not had as much exercise.

For a while Jekyll enjoys his two bodies; he can do whatever he likes without fear of discovery. His pleasure is stunted when Hyde kills Carew in a nonsensical fit, and he resolves never to take the potion again. Hyde is now strong, however, and emerges whether Jekyll will have him or not. Indeed, Jekyll must use the potion to be rid of him if only for a moment. Jekyll knows that it is only by killing his body that Hyde’s body, too, will die.

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White-Jacket

Melville, Herman

Last Updated: Oct-17-1996

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

White-jacket is a sailor on the U.S. frigate Neversink. His nickname derives from a jacket stitched together from leftover scraps of rags. This jacket makes the other sailors superstitious and as the ship heads towards Antarctica his mess group kicks him out and he joins another group, serving under the much-liked petty officer, Jack Chase.

The journey is a dangerous one. A man falls overboard. There are constant floggings for the merest inkling of insurrection. All the crew members are forced to watch each flogging. A doctor stands by to stop the flogging if the victim's life is endangered, but he is so callous he doesn't stop a single one. The doctor also prescribes medications, but never attempts to change the conditions that cause the sailors' illnesses, like malnutrition and exposure.

When the ship lands in Rio de Janeiro, Dr. Cadwaller Cuticle boards. In order to show off to the ship's doctors, he amputates the healthy leg of a sailor, who is terribly frightened as the doctors discuss his impending fate in front of him. The man dies of shock. When the boat continues on its journey, White-jacket accidentally falls from the riggings. He barely escapes being speared when a ship-mate mistakes his jacket for a whale. He is fished out and sent up again to complete his task.

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