Monday, February 20, 2012

I Have a Dream: ABA/AMA Joint Task Force

I'm finishing my book, which will tentatively be called "Healing at the Intersection of Law and Medicine." Continued thinking and writing about this intersection brings me to our commonalities.

The common threads between physicians and attorneys are many: human well-being, healing, justice, a moral contract with society, and commitment to our communities. This suggests a common vision. Taking that common vision and expanding it into our respective roles after adverse event/medical error situations will be a giant step forward. Think of the possibilities for human well-being and healing, not just for our patients and clients, but for ourselves and our communities. Why not a joint resolution of the ABA/AMA that we have agreed to come together to make a contribution to improved health care? A joint task force? A common vision statement? A cooperation clause?

I suggest a task force, composed of a small, representative, skillful group of members of the ABA and AMA, to hold dialogues about medical error/adverse medical event situations and our responses to them, our goals for improved practices, our values, and our experiences of collaboration. The dialogues will also consider how, when appropriate, we can shift our language and our cultures to improve both our legal and medical practices.

What better contribution could we make to healthcare and to our communities?

For those who share my dream, want to talk more about it, and/or have ideas and suggestions, please let me know. I am taking an appreciative inquiry approach, so would like to talk about what is right with these or similar ideas and improve on them.

Monday, February 6, 2012


As I finish my book, entitled Healing at the Intersection of Law and Medicine, and prepare for my workshop in Ireland, I've been thinking about forgiveness in medical error situations. I've been talking on line extensively with two friends who have been through the heartbreak of losing their children to medical error. One, Margaret Murphy, lives in Ireland and lost her 21 year old son, Kevin, to a series of medical errors. She now works with the World Health Organization, the Irish Medical Council, and the hospital at which her son died on patient safety. She told me in one of her emails, "My take on forgiveness is that I can help healthcare forgive itself by raising awareness and using Kevin's patient journey as a learning tool."

Another friend who has forgiven caregivers after losing a child to medical error is Chris Jerry of Cleveland. He gave up his successful career in medical imagining to establish the Emily Jerry Foundation to do what he can to prevent others from injury or death due to medical error. He publicly forgave the pharmacist held responsible for the prescription error that caused the death of Emily. Now, he and the pharmacist, Eric Cropp, speak publicly about forgiveness and patient safety before pharmacy groups, medical schools, and community groups. Chris told me that he knew instinctively from the time of Emily's death that systems errors caused her death, not the conduct of one person. Still, the process that followed Emily's death was out of his control, both a hearing at which Eric lost his pharmacist's license and a criminal proceeding that sent Eric to jail. He and Eric are delivering the message that healthcare needs to look at systems, not individuals, when errors occur. Chris and Eric are delivering the message with great compassion to our health caregivers, attorneys and communities.

I want to thank Margaret, Chris and Eric publicly for the work they are doing in bringing compassion and forgiveness to all of us.