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Weekend Wrap: Jahi McMath Lawsuit and Sorry Works! Connection

Many of you will remember the story of Jahi McMath, the young girl who suffered a major adverse event following a tonsillectomy at Children's Hospital Oakland, was declared brain dead, then her family fought successfully to have her kept on life support and transported to another facility for additional care. Well, some of you may have heard, Jahi's family filed a lawsuit this week against Children's Hospital Oakland....a link for a news story about the lawsuit is provided below. There is an interesting connection between this hospital & case and Sorry Works! -- when reading the article linked below you will see at the end of the article a quote from Mr. Wade Westhoff. The Westhoff Family also lost their own daughter after a major adverse event at Children's Hospital Oakland in January 2013 before the McMath tragedy. The hospital was not empathetic, and did not communicate or stay connected with the Westhoff family post-event. Instead, the hospital mailed multiple marketing and fundraising letters along with a quality survey to the Westhoff's house! These mailings were a constant reminder of their loss and angered the family. Wade and his wife Jennifer did their own investigation and found several mistakes in their daughter's care. Wade and Jennifer met with the hospital and offered to reconcile and help fix the post-event communication processes at the hospital. The Westhoff Family also asked that the mailings be stopped. Initially, the hospital was receptive, but, then, the wheels fell off the cart...and the hospital mailings to the Westhoff family continued. Wade warned the hospital they had serious safety problems and the hospital was ill-equipped to communicate with angry, grieving families....then Jahi's case happened.

Wade and Jen have filed a lawsuit over their own daughter's case. Sorry Works! did two blog postings on the Westhoff family story, including a letter written by the Wade and Jen about their experiences with Chidlren's Hospital Oakland. You can find those two articles here and here.

There are many lessons from the Westhoff story, but one of the big and easy take aways is....quit sending mail to folks after an adverse medical event! It incredibly insensitive and can be viewed as abusive, and will increase the anger felt by families. Leadership needs to quickly shut down marketing and fundraising letters; bills need to be put on hold; and surveys stopped. All communications - written, verbal, e-mail, etc -- with a family after an adverse event need to be routed through the disclosure team. When I teach disclosure I always drive home this point --- because it's so simple, so necessary, yet so many healthcare organizations miss this point. STOP SENDING MAIL TO TRAUMATIZED FAMILIES!

Here is the link to the article about the Jahi McMath lawsuit which includes the quote from Wade Westhoff.


Doug Wojcieszak, Sorry Works! Founder, 618-559-8168,

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