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Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

Important Update on Boston Hospital's Apology to Widower


Approximately six weeks ago (late November 2018) we shared the story of Laura Levis' tragic death after being locked out of a Boston hospital during an asthma attack, and the tortured path the hospital took in providing an apology to her husband, Peter.  The apology was two years late and was only offered after Peter, a former Boston Globe reporter, castigated the hospital in a long article (51 pages!) in the Boston Globe's Magazine.  We critiqued the hospital's apology for this audience -- you can read our blog post here.

Last week (December 29, 2018), Peter provided an important update to his story in the Boston Globe that readers of this space will want to absorb and share. I will summarize key points below, but I encourage you to read the entire article and draw your own conclusions. 

To the credit of all the people involved, this is not a "one and done" story. The hospital and Peter are moving forward collectively and individually to bring good out of a senseless tragedy.  Peter reports that the hospital, which was once tight lipped, is now an open book, freely sharing files and records, and allowing him to tape record all conversations. The hospital has made many safety changes due to Laura's death.  Peter has also spoken to the hospital's board of directors (in addition to meeting with individual executives).  Moreover, the hospital has engaged a prominent Boston law firm to review the entire case, including their response to Peter and his family. Questions such as "Why wasn't an apology offered two years earlier?" will be asked and answered by the outside law firm.  Finally, Peter reports that the hospital is joining the disclosure and apology movement.  Bravo. I hope the hospital develops a formal disclosure and apology program.  

Some additional thoughts that are very important:

  • Peter stated in the article he will not sue the hospital, and even if he would file litigation the state's outdated $100K cap would likely make a lawsuit a fruitless financial endeavor. However, Peter has started a foundation in his wife memory. A sizable donation from the hospital to that foundation is a much-needed gesture.  Also, if Peter pursues patient safety work (he may), the hospital should consider being a financial partner. Authentic apologies often include fair, upfront financial compensation. Moreover, healthcare, insurance, and legal professionals should first look to their hearts instead of outdated tort reform statutes when determining what is fair compensation.  

  • Peter wanted to know if the nurse who briefly but unsuccessfully looked for his wife, Laura, after her 911 call was "sorry" for her death. At Peter's request, the hospital interviewed the nurse and reported back to him that she is devastated.  However, they also shared that the nurse felt she was unfairly targeted by Peter's initial story in the Boston Globe Magazine. Indeed, part of the blame for Laura's death lies at the feet of the 911 system that did not fully inform the hospital of Laura's desperate situation. The nurse feels she did all that was required, while Peter believes the nurse should have known better/been more thorough searching for an asthma patient regardless of what the 911 operator reported.  Both Peter and the nurse are grieving, and the delayed disclosure may have hardened positions while increasing emotional harm.  

  • Peter now has the nurse's name, but is not publicizing it.  This is a classy move and shows Peter's heart and intentions. He doesn't want a pound of flesh....instead he genuinely wants to help people in his wife's memory.  I didn't name names in my brother's case either.  In my eyes, Peter is credible. He's not an ax grinder who hates health care.  Perhaps, in the future, the nurse and Peter can meet?  Such a meeting might go a long way to heal both of them....

  • The article also conveyed that the hospital was caught flat-footed from a communication perspective, both in the moment when Laura was in their ICU and afterwards.  Everything happened so quickly, is a theme present in this story.  Also, leadership didn't receive timely and complete information from front-line staff.  Etc, etc. This speaks to a hospital that desperately needed a disclosure & apology program -- and it seems like they are getting one now due to Peter's persistence.  

  • Finally, 911 operators in Boston will receive upgraded training to prevent another tragedy due to miscommunications. 

A beautiful young woman is dead from what her husband correctly describes as a "senseless" tragedy. The subtitle of Peter's recent article reads, "Using it to save other lives is the only thing that makes sense to me."  Powerful story...please share with others. 

Hopefully Peter and Laura's story will save many, many lives. 

Happy New Year!

- Doug

Doug Wojcieszak, Founder and President
Sorry Works!
618-559-8168 (direct dial) (direct e-mail) 

Doug Wojcieszak