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Posted by on Jan 14, 2018 in Rare disease | 0 comments

Validation or Vindication? (14.01.2018)

Validation or Vindication? (14.01.2018)

If you’ve been reading the rare disease posts on this blog, you might remember that I submitted a Service Quality & Complaints Commission Dissatisfaction Form back in August (see Dissatisfaction; a form). That means, in everyday language, that I filed a complaint. You can read the posts Betrayal and Response time not met for the backstory, for the reasons I felt compelled to submit a complaint.

Even though the regional Service Quality & Complaints Commission is supposed to get back to patients within 45 days of a complaint, with a conclusion, I’d expected delays in my case. That’s because of something that I’d been told during the phone call I received from the Commission in August, to let me know that they’d received my Dissatisfaction Form and other documents.

The person who called me, from the Commission, advised me that my complaint was being split into 3 different files. They were going to treat my complaint as 3 different complaints, about:

  1. A specialist physician
  2. An orthopedic nurse, who worked as a team with the specialist at the hospital
  3. The refusal of the hospital outpatient clinic to allow me change physicians when I felt that the specialist wasn’t providing appropriate care
excerpt of a brochure on how to file a patient complaint

Image: Government of Québec, Minister of Health & Social Services

Then I received a letter from the regional Quality & Complaints Commission, dated November 8th. This letter said that the Québec Government’s Act Respecting Health Services and Social Services stated that the Commission had 45 days – from receipt of a complaint – to send their conclusions about the complaint. But that they needed more time to examine my complaints.

At that point, I have to admit that I didn’t think this process was starting off all that well. But I wanted to try to reserve judgement, to give the process a chance. I’m glad I did.

On January 2nd, I had an extra day off after the holidays. The mail had been delivered late, so my husband brought it in when he got home from work. With an odd expression on his face, he handed me a letter marked “Confidential”. It was another letter from the regional Quality & Complaints Commission.

The last letter I’d received had been only to advise me that there would be a delay in the investigation of my complaint(s), so I wasn’t expecting much. I was wrong.

This time the letter was signed by the Medical Examiner; the physician within the government’s regional health authority who investigates any complaints about physicians who work at hospitals – and other healthcare institutions – within our area.

So now I can tell you why the title of this post is “Validation or Vindication?” First off, what do those 2 words mean? Here are the definitions from the on-line Oxford Dictionary*:

Validate:

  • Check or prove the validity or accuracy of
    1. Demonstrate or support the truth or value of.
    2. Make or declare legally valid.
    3. Recognize or affirm the validity or worth of (a person or their feelings or opinions); cause (a person) to feel valued or worthwhile.

Vindicate:

  • Clear (someone) of blame or suspicion
    1. Show or prove to be right, reasonable, or justified.

The letter from the Medical Examiner states, in black & white, that the specialist physician about whom I’d complained:

  • “failed to meet his professional obligations relative to quality of care”
  • “also failed to make this diagnosis at the follow-up visits… despite progressive pain, rigidity and swelling of your right hand, and disproportionate relative to the severity of the Colles’ fracture and time elapsed since that fracture”
  • “did not establish the diagnosis of CRPS and refer you to appropriate treatment until… more than nine weeks after his initial consultation” which was 2 weeks after the Colles’ fracture

The letter also stated that “This failure contravenes Article 46 of the Code of Ethics of Physicians:

  1. A physician must make his diagnosis with the greatest care, using the most appropriate scientific methods and, if necessary, consulting knowledgeable sources.”

And, finally, the Medical Examiner wrote that “I have transferred your complaint to the President of the Council of Physicians, Dentists and Pharmacists of the” regional health authority, “for study toward disciplinary procedures.” The letter ends with a promise to keep me “informed of progress every two months during the course of this process.”

I read the letter, almost in disbelief, with tears running down my face. Finally. It felt as though I’d been vindicated, but only in the 2nd sense of the definition above. That my complaint had proven to be justified. But that word also has another meaning, that a person is cleared of blame or suspicion. And I don’t want to give the impression that the specialist, against whom I’d lodged the complaint, had been cleared of blame.

So the next best word for what I felt when I read that letter, and for what I’m still feeling, is validated. That letter, for me, meets all three senses of the definition of ‘validate’:

  • Demonstrate or support the truth or value of
  • Make or declare legally valid
  • Recognize or affirm the validity or worth of (a person or their feelings or opinions)

It has been a long, and often nerve-wracking process, and I’ve spent a lot of time wondering whether I should have ever submitted the complaint. At this point I’ve only received a (partial) conclusion for 1 of the 3 portions of my complaint, but it’s already much more than what I’d hoped for.

My reason for submitting this complaint was that one of my long-time physicians (who’s not treating me for CRPS), suggested that patient complaints are a good way for hospitals – for healthcare systems – to learn, and to prevent similar issues. He told me that if I submitted a complaint, it might spare another patient the same negative experiences that I’ve had.

My field is bioethics – or medical ethics – so once he’d told me that I could potentially help other patients by submitting a complaint, well it was something that I had to do.

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* Oxford Dictionary (on-line). Oxford University Press. Accessed 14 Jan 2018. Web: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com

 

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