Since I started my blog, I have wanted to write about medical negligence stories from my life. I have found that it’s extremely difficult to do, however, because I still suffer from their impact on my body. For this reason, each incident of medical negligence feels very emotionally charged.
So I have decided to jump-start the process by sharing the letters I have written to doctors following such incidents. To protect the guilty, I am only using initials. Here is the first in my series of letters — about the wart removal from hell.
January 10, 2008
As you know, today I came in to get a wart frozen off. When you finished freezing the wart, you asked me if I ever played with liquid nitrogen. I said no. You said it was “really cool.” I replied that those kind of things don’t interest me — “which is why you’re a doctor and I’m not,” I said.
Without warning and without asking my permission, you abruptly poured liquid nitrogen from the cup directly onto the examining table, right next to my exposed skin. Shocked and frightened, I jerked my legs back and away from the liquid nitrogen, which was bubbling around on the table. You then emptied the rest of the cup onto the same place. I was too stunned to say anything but managed to ask if the substance evaporates — trying to gauge how dangerous it might be and whether I would have to worry about spillage on the floor, as I went to get my shoes.
It was at that time that I noticed a mild stinging in my right eye. It has been two and a half hours, and my eye still doesn’t feel right. I just left a message for the doctor on call, concerned that my eye may have been irritated by a splash or vapor from the liquid nitrogen. While waiting for a call back, I looked up information about liquid nitrogen on the Internet, and this is what I found:
“Skin contact with liquid nitrogen or cold nitrogen gas may cause severe cold burns, comparable with those caused by boiling water…The eyes are particularly susceptible – even small splashes of liquid nitrogen, or short exposures to cold vapour or gas, may cause instant freezing of eye tissues and permanent damage…Vapor may cause a stinging sensation.”
I am now even more frightened and praying that your actions have not caused some kind of damage to my eye. Regardless of whether it has or hasn’t, your behavior was totally inappropriate and unprofessional. It frightened me, undermined the trust I extended to you as a doctor, potentially put my health at risk, and is taking time and attention I need for other matters. Not only am I scared, I am angry.