I just want to go to sleep, thought Walter. He had been on for 11 of his 12 hour shift. He thought about crashing in the doctor’s lounge before going home. probably safer to keep tired drivers off the road. To drive the point home he entered the room of a patient who was in for injuries sustained in a car accident. In his case it was drunk driving.
“How ya feeling today, Mr. Campbell?” he asked trying hard to keep the tone of judgement out of his voice. His mother had been killed by a drunk driver and he frequently fantasied about exacting revenge on other drunk driver patients by everything from misdiagnosis to out and out medical murder.
“I’ve seen better days, kid,” replied Mr. Campbell. “Can you send that nice nurse in when you’re done with me?” he tried to joke.
“Heh,” was all Walter could muster with his energy level and feelings toward drunk drivers. Walter reviewed Mr. Campbell’s chart and determined that it was time to have his bandages changed and that he needed to be walked around a little. Also, it was almost time for more painkillers.
“Can I get some more painkillers, doc”
“I’ll send the nurse in in half an hour.”
“It hurts real bad now. I think the last dose is wearing off earlier. Could you up the dose or get me something stronger?” Walter mulled over the ethics of supplying an obvious substance abuser more mood altering substances. Verses, letting a patient suffer in pain needlessly. Ethically, patients should receive equal treatment regardless of their means of entry to the hospital. Personally, Walter would like nothing more than to sit and watch this man writhe in pain. Ultimately, his decision came down to if another doctor came in and did something different that what he decides to do, would the patient be able to file a malpractice suit?
“Sure, I’ll prescribe some Morphine for you.” Hopefully, you’ll overdose.
“Do you know how I got here, doc?”
“Do you think I’m a bad person?”
“I think you made a bad choice,” Walter replied evasively.
“I did and I’ll have to live with that.”
Walter’s eyes narrowed on the chart as he said, “so, will the parents of that little girl you hit.”
“It was an accident. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. It’s not like I was totally smashed.”
“I’ll send the nurse in with your Morphine and its time for you to make another round around the ward.”
“So that’s it for conversation? Great bedside manner, doc.”
Walter knew patients rarely win suits based on bedside manner so he gave himself more permission to be genuine with his feelings. “You killed an 8 year old girl. Her family will never see her again. She will never graduate high school, get married, have kids, struggle with having a career or being a stay at home mom. Her parents will never see her again. Do you get that?”
“Wow, doc. You know I’m gonna go to jail for this right?”
“You know all the punishment in the world isn’t going to bring her back, right?”
Walter left Mr. Campbell at that moment and placed his orders at the nurses station and looked longingly at the door to the doctor’s lounge. Soon he’d get to sleep. But he knew he would still have to see Mr. Campbell tomorrow.