Home Research Case Studies Hard Cases: What Happens When a Medical Mistake Has an Unthinkable Outcome

Hard Cases: What Happens When a Medical Mistake Has an Unthinkable Outcome

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“I have colon cancer.”

My heart stopped.

One of my favorite patients, Mr. H, called me after I had moved my California practice in Santa Rosa to Mammoth Lakes.

Mr. H became my patient a few years before while I was in family medicine residency training. Each resident had his or her own patients in the clinic across the street from the hospital. First year residents inherited patients from the previous year’s third year residents when they left training to set up their own practice. New patients also found their way to the family practice residency clinic. Some because their friends recommend they go. Others because they were Medicaid patients and couldn’t find care elsewhere. Still others came because we welcomed all comers.

Mr. H Was My Patient and I Failed Him

Mr. H had initially came to my office for a physical exam and I later saw him in follow-up. He always came to his appointments dressed in navy slacks and a newly laundered shirt, hair slicked back and with a whiff of aftershave. He was about my father’s age.

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