In a beautifully written article the summer issue 2011 of The Pharos, the magazine for members of Alpha Omega Alpha, an anesthesiologist describes the emotional turmoil he experienced after the death of a patient to whom he gave a routine epidural anesthetic.
He has to deal with a very unhappy family. A healthy young woman who goes to the hospital to have a baby and dies is going to evoke some questions. He worries that he may have given her a total spinal anesthetic instead of an epidural. He anxiously awaits the autopsy results. She died of an amniotic fluid embolism. It wasn’t his fault. Years later, he still thinks about this case. [The story is not available online.]
We all have such cases, some our fault and some not. It is hard to forget about a patient who dies. No one has described this better than a surgeon-blogger named Bongi in a post he called “The Graveyard.”
I have another reason for telling you this. There has been a great deal of angst on Twitter about people tweeting and blogging about patients online. Everyone is concerned about patient privacy and HIPAA [often misstated as “HIPPA”]. A blogger was forced to close her blog after being browbeaten by another blogger even though the post in question was significantly altered to disguise the patient’s identity.
Yet, I hear very little outcry about privacy with stories like the one I described above in print media. What am I missing?