The Daily

Hear About It Later

I don’t want to hear about it later
I don’t want to, baby I don’t want to
I don’t want to hear about it later

Van Halen, Hear About It Later

When Angela Walker went to the emergency room complaining of “the worst headache in her life”, she was sent home. The next day, when the paramedics found her unresponsive on the floor, they drove her back to the hospital without lights and sirens – even though she was still alive. They assumed the young black woman living in the nice neighborhood was a drug overdose. Why that meant they needn’t treat her as an emergency they never did explain. Of course, she wasn’t taking drugs. She didn’t even drink alcohol. So when the paramedics delivered her back to the emergency room as a “drug overdose,” she died of bacterial meningitis in her brain while they tried to figure out what kind of drug addict she was.

I remember while I was working that case, the New England Journal of Medicine published the result of a small study that showed that patients in an emergency room had only a minute or so to list their relevant problems before their healthcare providers stopped paying attention to them. I used that small study to pretty good effect in the Angela Walker case, because it summed up some of the problems that typify emergency room care in a metropolitan (Atlanta) city. Patients bear an unreasonable burden in terms of forcing appropriate care. That is my firmly held belief backed up by decades of medical malpractice experience.

A similar study just came out: Link to Journal Article: You Have 11 Seconds Before Your Doctor Stops Listening. So over the fifteen years since Angela Walker’s case, we’ve made little or no progress – maybe gone backward.

I posted about the art of listening here on the blog in August of 2017. We could all learn more by being patient listeners.



The Thompson Law Firm