Even TV Doctors Notify Patient’s Next of Kin – Sometimes

 Even TV Doctors Notify Patient’s Next of Kin – Sometimes

Have you noticed how many prime time medical shows are doing episodes on next of kin notification issues? The latest are”Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC and the TNT series “다음드 HawthoRNe”. Not that they meant to do episodes specifically about that, and as far as one of the series goes, that central theme was completely glossed over, even though a next of kin issue was pivotal to a central character’s survival.

Now I love “Grey’s Anatomy” – always have. And as a television writer myself, (who also happens to run an organization that deals with family safety and patient notification issues), I’m always interested to see how those important themes play out in the drama of an episode. As most fans of the series know, the last two episodes of the season revolved around Izzy fighting for her life following cancer surgery and George O’Malley who, during the first half of the episode, decides to go off and join the Army to treat injured soldiers in Iraq. He then disappeared, as we later found, to say goodbye to his family before heading off to serve his country. In case you’re one of the ten or twenty people in America who didn’t see the episode, I’ll insert a spoiler alert. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet but plan to, skip down a few paragraphs.

A few scenes later an unidentified man is rushed into the emergency department. Hailed a hero, the man was hit by a bus after pushing a woman out of its path. The patient was a mess. He had a massive head injury, was covered in blood, his arm was nearly torn off and before he knew it, had the best residents of Seattle Grace looking down at him with pity. They doubted he would last the night, but they did what they always do and gave it their best. IVs were started, surgery was scheduled and they did a pretty decent job of caring for him.

Except for one thing.

No one, and I mean no one, not even Lexi the patient-loving intern, visibly searched for his ID. Granted the man was run over and dragged by a bus, so finding his ID might have been a challenge, but he was still clearly wearing clothes. The writers could have easily put in a throwaway line to show them doing the right thing, like “I found a driver’s license, but it’s completely saturated with blood” or “this looks like an ID badge, but it’s crushed and completely unreadable. At least they would have not only given a nod to proper trauma procedure, but to the fact that the patient lying close to death was a human being. What if they were about to give him a drug he was deathly allergic to, or that was about to interact with something else he was already taking? What about the fact that this patient had people he loved and who loved him, who needed to know that he might not live through the night?

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