A Tale of Two Systems: A Modern-Day Fable

A Tale of Two Systems: A Modern-Day Fable

Our medical system is far from perfect – as a patient for the last seven years I am aware of many of its shortcomings. Some of the same tensions and challenges that are faced by the legal profession exist within the medical system. However, the medical system may be light years ahead of the legal profession in appreciating the importance of inter-related and complimentary roles and skills, and meeting the basic needs of its users.

The following is based on a true story

As Sara was wheeled into the ER that evening in July, she watched a network of services unfold.

The paramedics who brought her in explained Sara’s situation and provided basic health information to the triage nurse – then turned, waved and headed out.

A clerk checked her Health Card.
The nurse triaged her.
A technician drew blood for lab work.
Another nurse checked her vitals.

The ER doctor examined her. “You need an emergency appendectomy.”

Introducing the anesthetist, the doctor said, “We are going to put you under now and take you up to the OR. I expect your surgery will be straightforward and we shall see you in recovery.”

*                                              *                                              *                                  *

The next time Sara surfaced into what felt like consciousness, she was back in the ER. Right back, in fact, at the moment that she was first wheeled into the hospital.

But this time, everything was different. Dream-like but also – different.

“I can’t register you until I have permission from the chief surgeon. She is busy in the OR, so you will have to wait over there” said the nurse at the desk, gesturing towards a crowded room of exhausted looking people.

Sara was puzzled: “Why does the chief surgeon have to register me?”. The nurse was brusque: “It’s an insurance thing.” To the paramedics: “You can put her in that room over there in the meantime.”

Ten minutes later, Sara was starting to shiver. It was chilly in the side room. Sara’s husband Atif – who in the way of dreams, had suddenly materialized – was concerned she would catch a chill. “See if I can have a warm blanket” said Sara. They keep them in a heated cupboard – that’s just what I need to warm me up.”

Atif went to the nurse’s station and asked the first person he saw, “Would it be possible to get a warm blanket for my wife? She is getting really chilled and I would like to keep her warm while we wait.”

The nurse looked panicked.

Dropping her voice and glancing furtively from side to side, she said to Atif, “I can’t do that, I’m sorry.”

Atif was taken aback. “Why ever not? If you are busy, maybe you can show me where the warming closet is, and I can just grab one?”

“No…” the nurse’s voice tailed off. “It’s not that. I can’t give you a warm blanket for your wife because it is sometimes seen as “medical advice and assistance” (her fingers made quotation marks in the air) and I am not qualified to give that.”

“Giving me a blanket?”

“Well, maybe. Its just not clear and I don’t want to get into trouble.” The nurse turned and walked away.

Atif walked back to Sara, to find a technician drawing her blood and a doctor standing in the corner of the room watching. Or rather, looking at his phone. The blood work completed, another nurse came in the room to check Sara’s vitals. The doctor continued to stand in the corner, looking at his phone.

“Hi” said Atif to the doctor.

The doctor shifted uncomfortably. “I am supervising these paramedics, please do not disturb me” he said grumpily.

“Oh, OK, sorry” said Atif.

A few minutes later, Sara was being wheeled down to the OR by a porter, with Atif walking at her side. When they reached the entrance to the sterile area, the porter gestured Atif towards the waiting room. After Atif had kissed his wife and left, the porter turned to Sara.

“Do you have your surgeon booked?”

“Pardon?” said Sara.

“Do you have your surgeon organized?”

“I’m not sure what you mean by ‘my surgeon’” said Sara, feeling baffled.

The porter sighed. “Did you retain a surgeon, yes or not?”

Sara was confused “Not that I am aware of. I just arrived in ER. I saw a doctor there who said I needed surgery.”

The porter sighed again and reached under the trolley.

“OK then, no surgeon. So here are your tools.” He dumped a series of vacuum sealed sterile packages containing surgical instruments on top of Sara’s stomach. “Good luck to you.”

Giving Sara’s trolley a final push through the doors of the sterile area, the porter disappeared. Sara found herself in an operating room. A cheerful looking lady put her head around the door. “It’s all yours for the next 20 minutes dear”, and withdrew.

Sara felt a mounting sense of terror in her stomach. What was happening? Surely she was not going to be expected to perform surgery on herself unaided? She could vaguely make out posters on the walls describing “coaching services”, but surely it was a bit late for that now…..

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Comments (9)

  • Ian Obody Reply

    Lol, glad to see you are keeping your humour levels up! That’s one of the five chief fluids of the body. Nicely done! It is the most successful treatment for cancer and self-representation disease.

    July 17, 2017 at 1:58 pm
    • Sheila McKinnon Reply

      That was me at my first family trial by myself in 2010! I just went through it again in 2016…my ex knew how to abuse for 28 years in a marriage, and knows how to abuse using the legal system!

      July 17, 2017 at 7:22 pm
      • Carol Easton Reply

        I hear you. My husband is a lawyer, and during our separation was represented by a lawyer. After thirty years of marital abuse I had to put up with both of them abusing me through the legal process because they could. The most disturbing aspect was the realization that Judges let them get away with it because they are members of the local bar – and I’m nobody – just a woman with no income, and no prospect of income because I raised my husband’s family of six children for thirty years. To be told that somehow I could magically go out into the world at age sixty and “get a job” is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unrealistic expectations of the Family Law Act….the old boys network is alive and well – even in 2015 !

        July 20, 2017 at 12:02 am
  • Zoie Reply

    I do not understand this article at all. Did the person in question actually have her surgery and then get nabbed while waiting in the recovery area? Or was she given a sedative which for some reason put her out before surgery (unusual) and then put somewhere waiting in that state for her “emergency” surgery only to have to go through everything again – only differently?

    This story does not make sense on so many levels.

    July 17, 2017 at 3:20 pm
    • NSRLP Reply

      Hi Zoie,

      The second part of the blog is a dream, imaging the medical system as if it was structured like the legal system.

      – Joanna Pawlowski, Research Assistant

      July 17, 2017 at 5:05 pm
  • sandra olson Reply

    I take the story like this,, I imagine that the legal system had someone at every level there to do “their job” just as the medical system. instead,, you are left out to dry. yes,,, it is true
    some similarities between both systems are,,, they are both self regulated,, account to no one and are extremely self protective. Both will hide evidence of wrong doing,, falsify reports, and lie under oath to protect themselves. neither of these systems in my opinion should have the right of self governance. Both swear to uphold the rights of the public to their rights and to their care,, dare question neither. I certainly hope you are doing well cancer is no man or womans friend. rest and do well.

    July 17, 2017 at 10:19 pm
  • Accountable Reply

    If a surgeon screws up, there’s recourse, perhaps even a malpractice suit. None-the-less, some form of medical assistance would most certainly be availed, and in a timely fashion; with undue care and attention.

    This rot we call Family Law can destroy a person, and on every level. And instead of fixing something that could levie foreseen years of litigation, many judges are only making things worse, as though it’s a game; unfettered discretion that loses public confidence in the system, and done so with impunity.

    The SRL is not the primary issue in the first instance, it’s those making SPORT of it. The SRL portion simply becomes self-preservation, all the while our legislators sit back not rocking the boat, because God forbid should anything risk their long sought-after pension if they oiled the squeaky wheel every once in a while.

    As I prepare for my application for leave to the SCC, I intend to rely on some of these analogies, but will be backed up with some very compelling statistics.

    Trust in Family Law is at an all time low, hold them accountable first, then maybe the clogged courts will justly serve those who need it most. Until then, clog the courts, because the legislators don’t seem to care!

    July 18, 2017 at 1:43 am
  • Judy Gayton Reply

    Another jaw dropping, insightful peek into what’s really going on inside those hallowed halls.
    The unthinkable, happens. Thank you for shining a light on the absurdity of it.

    Beyond this place, there be dragons…

    July 18, 2017 at 6:53 pm
  • tom tupper Reply

    look at the big deal made over 9/11 and 3000 people killed-according to the Canadian gov. 40,000 people die in Canada due to doctors/nurses/medical errors each year so since 9/11 640,000 have been killed and nobody really cares,WHY/
    In Canada statistics Canada says there are 500,000 rapes per year and nobody cares,WHY?
    People just seem to have no will to fight this except a small % of the population like NSRLP people etc and only fight if bad happens to them.If they have a good life why fight for others and when trudeau legalizes drugs no one will give a damn about anything the gov does wrong-his real plan?????

    July 19, 2017 at 2:20 am

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