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Hospitals, surgeons are there to help

Hospitals, surgeons are there to help

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"Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." It's a feel-good quote from Mr. Rogers that makes the social media and email rounds anytime something scary or tragic happens. It was a staple of my Facebook news feed during Sandy Hook and it reappeared again with Boston. It's a great sentiment, reminding us that there will always be people who have made it their life's work to make bad things better: law enforcement, teachers, first responders, nurses, doctors, and yes, even brain surgeons. The helping heroes we like to call them ... at least until they make a mistake.

The local media frenzy over the wrong-site surgery at SSM St. Clare Health Center ("Hospital blunders kept from public," May 5) is a case in point. Not content to simply read the facts of the legal proceedings, we are treated to second-hand accounts of a prior patient with a two-year-old complaint. His story adds to the aura of suspicion we want to attribute to the surgeon and the hospital. "I never have trusted big hospitals," we say. "These rich doctors are only out to make a buck," we think. Gone is the respect, appreciation and hero worship we might have afforded them a week ago ... before human error came into play.

I'm not attempting to minimize the tragedy of Regina Turner's situation. Medical mistakes have terrible consequences that must be addressed. The litigation now in process will no doubt ensure this. I am, however, questioning the speed and seeming pleasure with which we the people assign blame and malicious motives to the helpers and helping institutions. Mistakes, no matter how egregious, do not negate the reason hospitals and surgeons exist: to help.

Allison McDonald  •  Maplewood

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Here's the reality: Mistakes like the unimaginable one that happened to Ms. Turner at the St. Claire Health Center are rare, but they do happen. The only recourse for patients is the court system. Lawmakers take away that avenue when they limit damages to a figure that insurance companies can write off as a matter of doing business.

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