When I practiced surgical pathology, I enjoyed the camaraderie of my fellow pathologists. Whenever we encountered a difficult or unusual case, a ready consultation was available by walking next door to their office. The protocol would be to bring the microscope slide and ask my colleague to review the case. Usually a perfunctory history was given and a few disease possibilities were discussed. Overall, a very satisfying and stress-free encounter. However, on occasion, it was necessary to review a previously diagnosed case that subsequently presented with a much more sinister diagnosis. In these instances, either myself or my colleague would begin the consultation with, “You know that case you signed out?”
These are the seven words you don’t want to hear! It meant that the original diagnosis may have been wrong and only with the passage of time, was the full and complete diagnosis potentially revealed. It most cases, the diagnosis was now far worse than originally interpreted. At times, it meant that a report must be issued acknowledging the original diagnosis may have been misinterpreted. It may also mean that the patient may need to change their current treatment.
In these instances, all surgical pathologists must take the correct action and speak to the referring physician caring for the patient. It is painful for the pathologist and referring physician. But the greatest pain and anxiety is felt by the patient. Although there was never a malicious intent by the surgical pathologist, this knowledge does little to provide solace to the patient. They feel wronged and cheated.
Let all that you do be done in love.
1 Corinthians 16:14 (ESV)
As physicians, we seek to perform our jobs to the best of our abilities and with honorable intentions. However, it is inevitable that errors will be made. Unfortunately, when these errors occur, the outcomes are usually bad and may result in injury or worse. We must always remain vigilant to do our job and honor God with the talents He has bestowed upon us. All of the decisions we make will affect others. I continue to pray for those whose lives are affected by these decisions and ask God to care and comfort them and their families.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.