Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Minnesota "wrong kidney" cancer tragedy

You may have heard of the tragedy earlier this month in Minnesota, in which a kidney cancer patient had the healthy kidney removed, by mistake, leaving him only with the cancerous one.

This hits home for me, since my own kidney was removed a year ago this month. Adding impact, a year before that, I lived just 15 miles from that hospital, so it coulda been me.

Some people are focusing on who's to blame, but from the patient's perspective, the screaming headline on this story is that if the patient and family had had access to their medical records, and had known that they could and should read them, this disaster apparently could have been averted.

See, here's the thing: all my life, I thought about this stuff abstractly - like, analyze analyze, should be could be oughta be. But when my ass was suddenly on the line, like if things don't go PERFECTLY I'll die soon, I quickly lost all interest in whose fault anything might be - my concern was "How can I do everything in my power to improve my odds?"

Being an empowered patient (though I didn't know the term yet), I spoke up everywhere I could, and I read everything I could in my records on my hospital's PatientSite.

As I'm now fond of saying, your time will come. Prepare yourself. Think about this stuff before you're in a crisis.

Please read my posts about it on the e-patients blog - both the original, including an important comment from a past president of the MN Urology Society, and my reply to him in a second post. Included are excerpts from my actual radiology reports, to drive my point home. (I copy & pasted 'em right from PatientSite.)


  1. RE: Health records - you might find the soon upcoming Medical Banking Institute of interest -

  2. Ed, I went ahead and published your comment, because your profile has no way to contact you, but - what does the Medical Banking Institute have to do with this subject?

    I went to the URL you posted and all I see is a merger between banks and healthcare. Online medical records are a part of that, but that's not what caught my eye.

    Considering my experience of what's happened to customer service in banking as they've merged with everything in sight, this sounds like something I'd recommend people RUN from.

    Can you give me any reason to respond to this with anything but fear?

    For instance, I'm hardly inspired by your conference's Track 3, "Value-Centered Medical Consumerism." I know what "Value-Centered" means - cheaper and cheaper, "but trust me, it's worth it." My defining question is, is "value" being defined by consumers of healthcare, or financial interests?

    I hope you come back and soothe my concerns, because otherwise I may be reminded of the arrival of April 19 here in the Boston area, and I might get inspired to go do the Paul Revere thing...


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