standing by

I wrote a little while ago about being involved in a medical emergency at work (the link to that post is here).  I wondered what to call this social phenomenon of people assuming someone else will act and so failing to do what is needed, what is practically and morally required.  Turns out there is a term of it, the bystander effect.  And it’s in the news today, in a medical context.  A news story has been picked up, based on a New England Journal of Medicine article, about doctors at Yale-New Haven Hospital failing to treat an acutely ill patient who, no surprise, got sicker.   Too many doctors, specifically too many specialist groups, and no one coordinating the care.  No one making the calls.  No one designated, and therefore no one taking on, the role of pulling it all together and actually taking care of the patient.  Oh they ran tests, and apparently each team spent quite a bit of time talking about the patient.  But, according to the news story, no one took the needed steps to treat the man.  What I found particularly interesting was this part:  “Our inability to easily name his disease process quickly created ambiguity about ‘ownership’ of the patient,’‘ the authors said.

Let that sink in for a moment.  To me, this article could have been titled “why patients should care about having a diagnosis” or “what’s in a name?

I am going to ask hubby to get me access to the NEJM article and then I am going to make copies of it for the doctors I see who complain about patients who want a name for an illness.

Two great points in one article.  Let’s hope the medical community takes notice.


Link to the original article in NEJM, you need a subscription to access it.

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