24 August 2010

living with cancer - communications at the hospital

The patient should have an opportunity to ask questions to elicit a better understanding of the
treatment or procedure, so that he or she can make an informed decision to proceed or to refuse
a particular course of medical intervention.

This communications process, or a variation thereof, is both an ethical obligation
and a legal requirement spelled out in statutes and case law in all 50 states.

American Medical Association / Web page describing "Informed Consent"

Last week Bill developed what might have been a "mild" case of pneumonia, however "mild" a lung infection can be at the same time one is hospitalized for cancer.

I suspect he even knew ~ intuitively ~ that he had contracted it. He'd been coughing some one day last week when I visited. We went downstairs, sat in the yard between buildings one/two and the older complex, and he mentioned something about getting an infection.

He did not go for radiation/chemo on Friday. Sat the weekend anticipating going Monday but when that came nothing happened. Oh, no, he was moved to a new ward. We knew that was coming.

I called early this morning to find out what was going on. Today, he learned at 1130 that he was not going for treatment again today. No reason provided. He got anxious. Over the phone I heard someone telling that someone from oncology was coming to see him.

Still with no answers I left work to see what was going on. As I was pulling into the VA Center, a call came from the oncology team. He had pneumonia. Yes we told him. He ought to have known that we won't treat him while he's getting antibiotics... but not to worry since the growth is slow and this should be resolved by the end of the week [meaning, I suppose, that treatments start next week].

One of the most frustrating things to deal with is not knowing. As I drove toward the center [made it in record time ~ less than half an hour] I kept thinking the worst. This is a repeat concern. Bill keeps asking to be told what's going on. So do I.

Might have to just move in and park myself in order to know what is going on.

Again, all that said, people working here are not uncaring; too busy sometimes, perhaps ~ which can happen at most any hospital. Yet the docs don't communicate their knowledge until after the frustration tipping point. Don't they get it? In the process of being an informed consenter getting the details from the docs does not seem to be too much to ask for.

IMAGE CREDIT: Lungs Home Health which touts iteslef as "the UK's leading provider of drug testing products, pregnancy tests, ovulation tests, DNA Paternity Tests and home testing kits. The image was found at What Are Lungs?, a webpage put together by Nandini Thogarapalli, a grade five student at Dr. E.W. Coffin School, Calgary, Canada, as a science project that looks at lung cancer.

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