Do medical schools teach Doctors that apologizing is a sign of weakness? Is it too much to ask such a highly educated person to display a bit of remorse? Are they somehow above this type of behavior? From our experience with Evan I would have to say the answer to this question is yes.
I apologize in my job all the time. If a client is upset, I’m quick to apologize. It’s a simple act. It doesn’t fix or change anything. However, it does make a difference. The kicker here is, my job never involves whether someone lives or dies. NEVER. The issues at hand are much less significant.
Erin and I have yet to receive a single apology from any Doctor we visited. If they would have told us there was a CHANCE Evan’s condition could be non-lethal I would be much less surprised by a lack of apology. This simple acknowledgement would have changed the way we did EVERYTHING. We would not have induced. We would have had a sliver of hope. We may have even appreciated and enjoyed Erin’s pregnancy a little bit. However, we were told with 100% certainty that Evan’s condition was lethal. We had no hope. We had no joy. We did not embrace the pregnancy at all. It was something we had to avoid talking with about strangers in the grocery store. When they would get a big smile on their face and ask the due date, the sex, Erin would quickly answer with one word and move on. When we were leaving one of our many Doctors appointments prior to Evan’s birth we happened to get on an elevator with a young couple taking home their first child. They had the camcorder going and everything. If we had some hope I could have looked at that situation with SOME positivity. However, while we were in that confined space there was awkward tension as we did not look at the child or the parents. We did not say one word. I had to fight back the urge to turn to them and say “I’d be happy for you but my child is going to suffocate to death in my arms minutes after birth”. I wanted to grab the camcorder and smash it into pieces right in front of them. What a horrible reaction to what is probably the happiest day of these peoples life. This is what a diagnosis like the one we received does to you. It kills you. It changes you. I places hatred in your heart. Maybe other people handle things differently. They find strength in their religion perhaps. However, I’m willing to bet, if they are being honest with themselves, they feel exactly the same way I did. It’s just not very socially acceptable to admit it. After what we went through, I could give a damn about what’s socially acceptable. An apology would be very acceptable.
I’m certain that the Doctors are elated that they were wrong….and that Evan is doing well. I know they are happy to hear it and they wish all of their cases would end like this. However, this case almost did not end like this. We induced early with the plan to provide only ‘comfort care’ to Evan while he passed. He was not going to be whisked off to the NICU if he was struggling. We expected him to struggle…..a lot. If he would have had a curable problem he probably still would have passed. We ALMOST induced him 2 months early. However, Evan was breach. When I reflect on the way everything played out I feel like I had been rolling around in a minefield with a blindfold on. When we realized Evan would make it I feel like I was standing on the other side of the minefield and someone just had removed my blindfold. It’s an indescribable feeling.
I’m sure if I tried to pin the Doctors down to liability the blame game would be in full force. I vaguely breached the subject shortly after Evan’s birth and the nurse for our perinatologist/OB mentioned that they did not make the diagnosis, it was Dr. X, the specialist we were working with, that gave us the diagnosis. While this may be true we still saw our perinatologist every week and he agreed we should induce. He was even willing to induce 2 months early, even though Evan was breach. I’d say that’s quite some confidence in the lethal diagnosis. I don’t care who originally gave it. If he had doubts I don’t think he would have been so willing to induce….no matter what. If we tried to pin down our specialist she would mention that she is a research Doctor and was just giving us her opinion. However, we all know the truth. She is the most experienced and EVERYONE was looking to her for the answers and what to do next. I tried to get second opinions. The organizations I reached out to immediately referred me to this same specialist we were already working with. After those efforts I found no reason to question her “opinion”. If we just exercise some common sense it’s easy to see that the responsibility falls squarely on her shoulders. What should we have done differently? Ignore the leading specialist in the field and make our own decisions…based on, our denial? Please. It doesn’t matter that we can’t prove liability in a court of law. We all know the way this played out. A simple statement that she was not SURE it was lethal would have been great. She may have never stated in writing that she was 100% sure Evan’s condition was lethal. However, agreeing that inducing 2 months early (or even earlier), even if Evan was breach, solidly affirms her certainty in her diagnosis. Would you ever forcefully induce a healthy child 2 months early?
After all this. I fail to see how hard it would be to simply apologize to us. We deserve it.