Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Calculated Risk... Twice

It wasn't his decision alone.  He had counsel, friends, family, and some training, but he'd never seen anything like this before.  Sure, there were other patients with some of these symptoms in the medical books, but how could it be concluded that what was done for them would work for her?  It couldn't be.  And besides, he wanted this to be his culmination, his capstone on a career that would keep him in textbooks forever as the man who saved the unsavable, and doing what others had done before would not make him memorable.

So, after weighing his options, after looking at the patient and talking it over with his counsel he decided on the action.  To be fair, he probably should have asked the patient.  Maybe the patient didn't want this.  Maybe the patient knew a little something about her own illness and consulting with her might have been a good idea, but she was never asked about it.  She hadn't gone to medical school, she hadn't been appointed, she wasn't being paid to look over her charts, so she wasn't asked.  Instead, they found a plan of action that they thought might bring her back to full health.  It was risky, but if successful, she would be better than she was before the illness and the doctor would get his name in a magazine, so they went ahead with it.

The scene would have made any common man gasp, a doctor, holding a handgun, slowly raising it, and firing one distinct shot into his patient's leg.  As we'd expect, the shot was followed by a scream from the patient.  Nurses and civilians alike came to see what the ruckus was about to find the doctor standing with a smoking gun, explaining that what he'd done was extreme, but necessary.  He told them it had been a calculated risk, and that he was sure it would make her better.

But it didn't make her better.  She had the same symptoms she had before, but now she was losing blood through a gunshot wound that was supposed to help.  The doctor, his counsel, his family, and friends all studied the bullet hole.  What had gone wrong?  They'd done research, they'd thought out their options, they thought this gunshot would solve everything, but it didn't.

What happened next would be talked about in medical schools the next day, but over time would be forgotten.  It's not that it wasn't a horrible tragedy, or that something couldn't have been learned, but that the doctor had some very important friends, and they wouldn't allow people to remember what the doctor decided to do next.  We could speculate that it was the doctor's pride, or that he'd figured out what had gone wrong with the first procedure, but if I were pressed to give my real feelings about why he did it, I'd say that he didn't know any better.  He'd never dealt with an illness like this one, and he got nervous.  Her family was asking that he do something, she was asking that he do something, and instead of going to a specialist, or admitting that he didn't know what to do, he went forward with his plan.

He'd looked her over before the second procedure.  He examined her gunshot, and her illness.  Checked vitals and without warning, raised his gun again, and shot her in the other leg, explaining, amid her screams, that he'd shot the wrong leg, and that this one would surely cure her. 

She still lies ill on her hospital bed.  And just as expected, his procedures were talked about for a short while, but soon fell silent when other procedures came up.  For most other doctors, this one action would have been the beginning of the end of a career, but not for this man.  He had friends in high places, and this would only be the beginning.

Thank you Dr. Obama, for shooting us with a 'stimulus package'... twice.

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