Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tom Smith

A heart-warming little story from across the pond.

A MUM suffering chest pains died in front of her young son hours after being sent home from hospital and told to take painkillers.

Debra Beavers, 39, phoned NHS 24 twice in two days before getting a hospital appointment. But a doctor gave what her family described as a cursory examination lasting 11 minutes, before advising her to buy over-the-counter medicine Ibuprofen.

Family members claim the medic was abrupt and rude - and when Debra clutched her chest, he told her: "Your heart is on the other side."

Seven hours later, the mum-of-two collapsed and died from a heart attack in front of her 13-year-old boy.

Debra's furious family insist she could have survived, had medics not been so "dismissive". They believe she should have been given medicine which could unblock a coronary artery.Her sister Darlene McConnell said: "We are heartbroken. She tried to get help but no one would help her."

Debra, of Kirkcaldy, Fife, called Darlene on Saturday, July 25, at 5pm to say she was unwell.

She was suffering numbness in her toes, swelling around the ankle and leg pains. She contacted NHS 24, who took her details and said they would be in touch.
However, Debra's condition worsened and she began to suffer severe chest pains by the early hours of Sunday.

She rang NHS 24 again at 2am and requested a doctor. They instead booked an appointment for her at Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, later that day.

Darlene, 44, said: "We now think Debra was actually having a heart attack around the time she telephoned NHS 24. I spoke to her on Sunday morning and she said the pains were so bad, she thought she was going to die.

"She went to the hospital as arranged at 1pm and was back out in minutes. The doctor told her to go home and take Ibuprofen.

"She said he was very rude and, as she clutched her chest, told her 'Your heart is on the other side'. . . . 

A spokeswoma for NHS Fife said: "We would like to express our condolences. NHS Fife's duty to uphold patient confidentiality prevents us from making any comment on an individual case."

NHS 24 executive nurse director Eunice Muir said: "We can confirm Ms Beavers contacted NHS 24 and that her onward referral was managed safely and appropriately.

"We would ask her family to contact us if there are any aspects of the case they wish to discuss."

Which leads me to my main point:  All of this talk about ObamaCare somehow leading to the fear that oldsters will be shunted off to euthanasia is, in my view, utterly irresponsible.  Think of what true euthanasia would be like.  A doctor would look you over, study your medical history, consult the specialists on whatever collection of problems was sending you out the door, and then advise you that, in all likelihood, you faced say six or twelve months of terrible pain to be followed inevitably by death. Given that, maybe the best thing to do would be to go home, say your good byes, and settle down on a morphine drip which, on a day of your choosing, would be increased to a fatal level.  You would drift out on a cloud, your only regret being that you did not discover massive doses of morphine earlier in life.

So my question is, what on earth makes anybody think the goverment will put together anything nearly so organized or compassionate?  A much more likely scenario is that your cancer or whatever it is will be missed or misdiagnosed until it's too late to do anything useful about it (not that that would have been done anyway), then you would spend some dreadful weeks in some crowded ward where you would not even get the meds that you need, then maybe you would decide you've had enough, and go home and if you want to put an end to the thing mercifully, you will need, as if so often the case, to take care of it yourself.  If you think the government is going to drop a bunch of morphine on you just because you're suffering, I think you're dreaming.  Maybe an 800 number with some soft music and tips on offing yourself, but probably you'll just be put on hold.

The little tale of the young mum who died of a heart attack after her cursory and botched care from the NHS is shocking, but why should it be?  Would you expect similar doctors to do a good job easing somebody out of the clutches of a painful, terminal disease?  So my point is, calling what sick old people would get under American-style socialized medicine "euthanasia" is, in my view, giving what we would end up with way too much credit.  It would be more like euthanasia with the eu.  Thantos is easy. The Eu requires quite a bit of skilled, personal medical attention.  Good luck getting that from your government.  So cheer up.  Euthanasia is not the issue.

If this young mum had shown up at my LWJ's office with chest pain, she would have gotten an EKG before they let her leave the place, and even if that looked normal (and to this non-MD it sounds like it would not have), she might well have been seen very shortly by a cardiologist.  More likely, the doctor taking the call would have said, call 911 right now and the chest clutching mum would have been on her way to emergency cardiac care as fast as humanly possible, which in this country is remarkably fast. She probably would have gotten an angioplasty (or whatever) within a matter of hours, given the severity of her symptoms.  Using medical devices created by villianous, profit seeking corporations, BTW.  These are not rich patients, either, but school teachers, truck drivers, and even unemployed people on medicaid.  We Americans may be fat, but by God, I would say we do chest pain pretty darn well.  This young mum would have been far better off walking into a big city ER in the US, saying she had terrible chest pain and no insurance, than she was in Scotland with its NHS.

I don't doubt there are people in the US who need help to buy medical insurance.  But I think most Americans have no idea how good they have it or what government health care would be like.  Or maybe they do, and that's why so many of them are getting mad.

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Tom Smith


One of my professors was doing a visiting year in England. He had some chest pain, some shortness of breath. A doctor there told him his best bet was to get home to America as quickly as possible.

He had bypass surgery in the Emory Clinic within a week, if I remember correctly.

Posted by: Michael Tinkler | Aug 9, 2009 12:10:29 PM

While my colleague got his teeth worked on in London, got infected, threw a clot, had a stroke, lingered for a year, then died. I read somewhere people from *Greece* go home rather than get medical care under NHS.

Posted by: Tom Smith | Aug 9, 2009 4:04:39 PM

But, but... the Indonesian has always been at war with Euthanasia.

Posted by: enemyofthepeople | Aug 9, 2009 7:05:54 PM

Oh, for Christ's sake, do a little research, you know, with google (death in the er):

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Six hospital employees have been fired or suspended after ignoring for more than an hour a woman who collapsed and died in a New York emergency room waiting area.

Surveillance video shows a woman lying on the hospital floor for almost an hour before anyone helped her.

On June 18, Esmin Green, 49, was involuntarily admitted to the psychiatric emergency department of Kings County Hospital Center on June 18 for what the hospital describes as "agitation and psychosis."

Upon her admission, Green waited nearly 24 hours for treatment, said the New York Civil Liberties Union, which on Tuesday released surveillance camera video of the incident.

The surveillance camera video shows the woman rolling off a waiting room chair, landing face-down on the floor and convulsing. Her collapse came at 5:32 a.m. June 19, the NYCLU said, and she stopped moving at 6:07 a.m. During that time, the organization said, workers at the hospital ignored her.

At 6:35 a.m., the tape shows a hospital employee approaching and nudging Green with her foot, the group said. Help was summoned three minutes later.

Posted by: sam | Aug 10, 2009 4:48:59 AM

In this country if she called an ambulance she would probably have been picked up within minutes and the EMT in the ambulance would probably have already begun to administer clot-busting drugs to her.

Regarding Sam's point, I'd be interested in how often someone in a decent US emergency room passes out and is ignored for that long. Even with our system in which people with no insurance just show up to emergency rooms for routine care, thus clogging the emergency rooms, it would seem extremely rare.

Posted by: Larry | Aug 10, 2009 11:08:11 AM

Heart attack and unstable angina: Heart disease, which includes heart attacks and angina, is the leading cause of death for American adults. Almost 900,000 people die each year from cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. Whether you survive a heart attack depends on the time it takes to get medical treatment, the region and extent of injury within the heart, and the presence of any other risk factors.

Posted by: chest pain | Jan 12, 2010 6:27:26 AM

oh oh oh

Posted by: Donovan | May 24, 2010 7:42:50 AM