Speak Up Addendum
“I see a bit of this myself in a different way.” So began one of the numerous responses I received to my last missive Speak Up.*
The reader who sent the comment is a neurologist involved in research and treatment of wounded veterans. In this capacity he works with an everchanging variety of residents from around the world. He shared how these residents “often believe that all that is in the medical chart is correct” due either to their particular cultural background, or simply deference to a white coat emblazoned with “Dr.”. “Well, the chart is not handed down from the mountain in stone,” he explained. “People make diagnoses, sometimes mistakes are made, and sometimes more data arrives that changes the diagnosis. It is hard to get them to recognize this at times.”
As someone whose father was almost killed by hospital mistreatment of post-surgery complications, this struck a chord. In my father’s case, the surgeon went on vacation after the surgery and in spite of my father’s deterioration and much pressure from myself and my sister, those in charge refused to act until “his surgeon was contacted.” When my sister and I decided to go through my father’s charts, someone spotted us and asked “You know how to read the charts?” When we replied that we did indeed, suddenly the situation changed. My father was rushed into surgery to mend the intestine that had become twisted during the initial surgery. Full recovery began.
My sister and I are both direct people who always speak up and share our thoughts. (I see those of you who know us nodding your heads.) And yet, we still had difficulty getting those in charge to listen. What would have happened to my father if we had been the kind of people who take the word of a doctor as gospel in spite of what the evidence before us strongly pointed to?
I decided to write this addendum to Speak Up when the many responses to it accentuated the pervasiveness of staying silent, and the dire results that often ensue, including death.
Coco Chanel describes courage this way: “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
Think for yourself. Speak your thoughts. Encourage everyone around you to do the same. Consider the consequences of your silence.
* Request: While I’m grateful for all of your responses, via email, text or some even in the comment sections of the post, I encourage you to post as comments, so that other readers can benefit from your thoughts and insights.