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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Star Phoenix Fail 

This Star Phoenix editorial -- Native advocate in health system requires review -- has to have reached some kind of record in patronizing insult and overreaching analysis.
Here's the story: a five-month-old baby boy, Mason Fullerton, died last spring of bacterial pneumonia. In the five days before he died, his increasingly-frantic mother Beverly had taken him to see several doctors, including his family doctor and two emergency rooms. Nobody did an x-ray of his lungs. Nobody gave him antibiotics. Everybody patted Beverley on the head and told her it was just a virus, that our health care system has important things to worry about like the long-term societal expense of overuse of xrays and antibiotics, while she, the mother of three other children, was obviously misjudging the situation and she should just take Mason home.
So little Mason died on an April morning, sitting in his rocking chair, as Beverley was getting ready for another trip to Emergency.
And since Mason's pointless death, there has apparently not been an inquest or an investigation of why our health care system let Mason and his family down so badly.
The whole story is somewhat inexplicable, until you realize that Beverley is Aboriginal and so was Mason. Did that have anything to do with how Mason was misdiagnosed, and Beverley's concerns were dismissed? We don't know, but the FSIN has now asked for an Aboriginal advocate to investigate problematic Aboriginal health care cases.
So now the Star Phoenix leaps into action.
They didn't do an editorial about how badly the health care system let down this family. They didn't demand that little Mason's death be investigated.
But now they have trained their editorial distain on the only suggestion made so far which might discern the truth about why this baby was not treated. Here's an example of the tone:
Whether or not the baby's death was avoidable is something that warrants investigation. But to do so in a confrontational manner generally won't improve care at the hospital, or bring back the baby. It also could be highly damaging for health-care providers and other patients if authorities resort to over-testing and redundant reporting simply to avoid blame.
Because Heaven forbid we should get confrontational over the needless death of an innocent baby. Why, someone's feelings might be hurt!
They go on to pearl-clutch over how truly awful it would be if someone actually got sued over this case:
It could be even more disastrous to the health system if the baby Mason case has to be sorted out in court . . . The risk of litigation also has led to hospitals and doctors ordering redundant and mostly unnecessary tests as a way to avoid being held liable.
In a Canadian health-care system that is already hard-pressed to find the manpower and resources to do vital medical tests, it is frightening to think what would happen if lawyers as well as doctors demand that it perform more.
Well apparently in this case, the system could hardly have done less.
But the stupidest statement in this editorial is this astounding sentence
Of even greater concern is the pain and discomfort small children would have to endure as health-care workers extract more bodily fluids -- not to improve care but to mitigate legal liability.
How noble, its all about the children, really.... but does this editorial writer really mean to imply that death is better than an uncomfortable medical test? Besides, a simple chest xray hardly falls into the category of a medical test which requires endurance.
The editorial wraps up with statement about how an advocate "could easily result in a loss of trust on both sides."
So what? If trust is the casualty of better care, then that's a trade-off we should all be quite willing to make.

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