The right thing takes a wrong turn

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					                           LEGAL ADVISOR
                    CASE


The right
thing takes a
wrong turn
Should the clinician have
kept silent when asked
about the treatment
a patient was receiving?




                                                                                                                                       © PHOTODISC
BY ANN W. LATNER, JD                                                      Mrs. W needed a new treatment plan, but the
Ms. E had spent the past 20 years as a nurse         Ms. E attempted      physician was unresponsive to Ms. E’s attempts
practitioner. She was hired five years ago by         to contact           to contact him. As the days went by, the patient
a midsized nursing center in her community.          the physician        continued to decline and Ms. E’s anxiety over
Within a year, she had been promoted to the                               the situation grew.
job of Care Plan Coordinator and was respon-         several times,         Ms. E was not the only person who was con-
sible for managing medical care and treatment        but he would         cerned. The patient’s adult son, who expressed
of all patients in the facility. One of the new      not return her       great alarm over his mother’s situation,
responsibilities that came with the promotion                             approached her one afternoon.
was the supervision of less experienced nurs-
                                                     phone calls.           “What should we do?” he asked Ms. E. “I’m
ing staff. Ms. E thrived in her new position                              worried about my mother. She has lost so much
and received high ratings from her superiors.                             weight over the past few weeks, and she is
Everything went well until the day that doing                             agitated and hallucinating. There is definitely
the right thing turned out to be the wrong thing                          something wrong with her.”
for Ms. E’s job security.                                                   “Yes,” replied Ms. E. “I am worried about
  Mrs. W, aged 76 years, had been exhibiting                              her condition.”
disturbing symptoms over the past two weeks,                                “What do you suggest we do about it?” asked
including hallucinations, weight loss, psychiatric                        Mrs. W’s son.
symptoms, and acute distress. Ms. E documented                                                                  Continues on page 50
and reported all of the patient’s medical diffi-
culties to the staff physician. She attempted to
                                                                           Cases presented are based on actual occurrences.
contact the physician several times, but he would                          Names of participants and details have been changed.
not return her telephone calls. Ms. E became                               Cases are informational only; no specific legal advice is
increasingly concerned as the patient’s condi-                     
				
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