Ten years ago, my young husband's heart valve broke around the time we moved to
Seattle. We were in the fortunate situation of having access to a very good
heart surgeon at a very good hospital. After the surgery, the surgeon came out
to talk with us and was upfront about a mistake he had made. While trying to
repair the flap of the heart valve, he lost a piece of tiny equipment he was
using to secure the flap. He was never able to find the missing piece in the
heart and ended up having to completely replace the heart valve with an
artificial heart valve instead of the more desired outcome of repairing my
husband's own heart valve. He explained the problem clearly along with the
potential concerns. We were just glad at that point that my husband was stable.
However, about an hour after the doctor left us, my husband crashed and had to
be raced back into surgery. I recount some of this in the opening of Practical Theology for Women. It's likely that the lost piece
of equipment caused a heart attack, but even after the 2nd surgery, the doctor
was still unable to find it. My husband was in critical condition for a bit, but
he eventually recovered.
In all of that, it never occurred to me to even
consider malpractice. When the surgeon made a mistake while trying to do the
best for my husband, he was open and honest with me about it. We remained on the
same team, even during his mistake. Years later, while reading Malcolm
Gladwell's Blink, I understood a bit of the psychology of what happened
in that moment. In Blink, Gladwell discusses malpractice rates and the momentary
decisions doctors make that tend to lower their rates of malpractice. The basic
thing Gladwell notes that predicts malpractice rates is the length of time
doctors spend explaining situations to their patients, even negative situations
of the doctor's own causing. The longer doctors spend with patients and more
open they are about potential and actual problems, the lower the malpractice
rates against them. That was exactly my experience. Our doctor was open and
honest about potential problems as well as his own actual mistake, and that up
front transparency on his part reinforced that we were on the same team with the
same goals. I would go back to that doctor in a heartbeat (no pun intended) if
we were in a similar situation. ...
There's quite a bit more in the above article that I won't quote much. That's the big open for your consideration. Wendy discusses that transparency about flaws and mistakes goes a long way to establishing trust. As some people have put it about political history and conspiracy it isn't always the crime itself that brings down an administration but the cover-up.