Sunday, March 9, 2008

Prompt 221: Justice Quote/Theatrical Muse Challenge

"Never pray for justice, because you might get some."
Margaret Atwood.

Every doctor wants to believe that they are providing the best possible care to every patient they see, but, the truth is, that isn't always the case. When I first saw Curtis Ames I didn't see his condition as that serious, and I certainly never thought it would reach the state it eventually did. I did feel it warranted observation however, but, when I suggested admission to the hospital to Mr. Ames, he refused. Knowing that he still needed to undergo treatment that could not be done with him as an out-patient I was forced to keep him in the Emergency Room so his condition could be monitored. During the time of his treatment I was responsible for following the care of some 40 other patients as well as overseeing the doctors and students who were working. I don't believe that Mr. Ames care was jeopardized by how his case was handled in the ER despite the fact that he suffered a stroke while there. He of course disputed that which is what prompted his lawsuit against me.

No doctor wants someone else to second guess their decisions on a patient's treatment but, it's something we routinely face when a patient dies and we are called upon to present their case during a M and M hearing. A malpractice lawsuit is something entirely different, not just because our competency is being forced out into the public arena, but, also because we are no longer being judged by our peers. Mr. Ames lawsuit was my first, and hopefully my last, experience with a malpractice case, and even now, I can't tell you what exactly he was looking to gain from it. I do know, that when he lost the case, it set in motion a series of events that will likely haunt me for the rest of my life.

I wish I could say that my victory in the courtroom was the end of my dealings with Curtis Ames, but it wasn't. In a way, we were both looking for justice in the verdict that was issued by the jurors in the case, and where I felt I had received it, he saw quite the opposite. If you had seen his reaction to the verdict, his anger and disappointment, you couldn't help but feel for him, and on that day he must have decided he was left no option but to find his justice another way.

I don't know when Curtis Ames began stalking me or my family, I only learned later how close he'd actually came to them, going so far as to have an actual conversation with Abby, and to learn my son's name. I can't begin to describe the revulsion, then fear I felt at receiving Joe's stuffed frog in the mail, at realizing what Ames might have done to them had he wanted to cause me true pain. As it was, he chose instead to terrorize them, invading our home to hold them at gunpoint before taking me hostage so he could extract the justice he felt he had been denied.

So much of that night I want to forget, so much I never will. In the end, Curtis Ames' need for things to be the way they once were, destroyed any hope he might have to move forward with his life. For him, he saw death as his only escape from what his life had become. I was lucky, I escaped with only bruises and a crushed hand, my family was safe, over time our memories of all we had been through would fade, and maybe, just maybe I would never again have a patient who had to go through what Curtis Ames went through. Thinking back on it now, maybe that was the justice Curtis Ames was looking for, sadly for him, we'll never know.

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