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Thread: Informing next of kin - what rules?

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    Default Informing next of kin - what rules?

    I brought my father, who is currently suffering from terminal cancer, to a Dublin hospital last Wednesday (3rd Sept) when he suffered severe vomiting during the night. After 14 hours in A&E, he was admitted to the hospital at 6am the following morning.

    Between then and today, I had absolutely no word on what his condition is. I visit every day, but none of the nurses can tell me what exactly is wrong. I have left several phone messages, and messages with the nurses, for the doctor treating him. As of Thursday Sept 11th, none of these had been returned. I'd left my phone number, and the hospitl also had my contact details on record as his nearest next-of-kin.

    My father is currently in a poor state; so weak he cannot leave his bed, and also having visual hallucinations. The only information I have gotten from him is that the doctors "want to put me in a home". I have no idea if this is something the doctor _actually_ said, since as mentioned they have not contacted me.

    Today (Friday 12th) I ran out of patience after yet another promised phone call from from my father's doctors was not made. So I rang the official complaints department at the hospital and explained the situation.

    Half an hour later, I received a phone call from a doctor. He mentioned several symptoms that my father was experiencing. I had to actually dig out of him (he didn't volunteer the information) the fact that my father's life expectancy had been cut from the previous estimate of 1 year minimum to a few weeks. When I stated that I was unhappy that it had taken them a week to inform his next of kin of this fact, considered he only had a few weeks left, the doctor said they had tried to contact me by phone but couldn't get through (I'll come back to this point). When I asked why they couldn't have left a message with the ward nurse for me to contact them, they didn't respond.

    Now, I didn't believe his story, so I checked with my mobile provider. They confirmed - and were willing to confirm in writing - that there was no service problem during the week that would have left the hospital unable to contact me. At worst, if I was out of coverage, an unanswered call would have gone to my voice box as is normal.

    That afternoon after visiting my father, I visited the complaints department in person and lodged a formal complaint, giving them all the above facts. I'll see what happens next. At the very least, hopefully they put a formal system in place so no other families have to do through situations like this.

    Does anyone know what hospitals are currently obliged to do?

    P.
    "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

  2. #2
    Politics.ie Member corelli's Avatar
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    Default Re: Informing next of kin - what rules?

    Are you, in fact, legally his next of kin? If so they hospital are ethically and legally obliged to keep you informed of your fathers condition. What you experienced is not unsual unfortunately.
    "......... we must sometimes listen to those who, consumed with zeal, have scant judgment or balance. To such ones the modern world is nothing but betrayal and ruin.........We feel bound to disagree with these prophets of doom who are forever forecasting calamity -- as though the world's end were imminent."

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    Default Re: Informing next of kin - what rules?

    Hi,

    Quote Originally Posted by corelli
    Are you, in fact, legally his next of kin? If so they hospital are ethically and legally obliged to keep you informed of your fathers condition. What you experienced is not unsual unfortunately.
    I'm his only offspring, he's a widower, and I'm specified on the hospital's own system as his next-of-kin.

    I'm interested in the legal obligation - for me, not going to any length to inform his next-of-kin that he is within weeks of dying borders on negligence. The only previous doctor I had managed to meet (in the A&E) said he simply suspected gastroenteritis.

    P.
    "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

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    Politics.ie Member spidermom's Avatar
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    Default Re: Informing next of kin - what rules?

    As I understand it nurses are not allowed to give a diagnosis,this is the docs job.awful to hear how you were dealt with.I would try and make contact with the ward sister on your dad's ward and get her to organise the meetings with the doc.staff nurses rotas mean they may not be there every day whereas the nurse manager works most week days.I would make her my point of contact.If you want to speak to a doc ask for the registrar or consultant,no one less senior than that.hope things work out ok
    When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity.

    ALBERT EINSTEIN

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    Default Re: Informing next of kin - what rules?

    Quote Originally Posted by spidermom
    As I understand it nurses are not allowed to give a diagnosis,this is the docs job.awful to hear how you were dealt with.I would try and make contact with the ward sister on your dad's ward and get her to organise the meetings with the doc.staff nurses rotas mean they may not be there every day whereas the nurse manager works most week days.I would make her my point of contact.If you want to speak to a doc ask for the registrar or consultant,no one less senior than that.hope things work out ok
    Correct, the doctor is unlikely to give you you very much information on the phone. You need to organise a one on one meeting through the nursing staff.
    Thank you for the six thousand likes.

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    Default Re: Informing next of kin - what rules?

    Quote Originally Posted by spidermom
    As I understand it nurses are not allowed to give a diagnosis,this is the docs job.
    Nowhere did I expect the nurse(s) to do this. I merely left my phone number with the nurses, as repeatedly ringing the doctors and leaving messages over the course of a week didn't produce any results.

    I'm not sure you or Keith seem to understand my point, so let me reiterate - if this was merely a run of the mill illness, that's one thing. But if a hospital suddenly realises that a patient is about to die shortly, is it up the patient's next-of-kin to repeatedly make attempts to contact the doctors to find this out?

    P.
    "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

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    Default Re: Informing next of kin - what rules?

    Quote Originally Posted by spidermom
    As I understand it nurses are not allowed to give a diagnosis,this is the docs job.awful to hear how you were dealt with.I would try and make contact with the ward sister on your dad's ward and get her to organise the meetings with the doc.staff nurses rotas mean they may not be there every day whereas the nurse manager works most week days.I would make her my point of contact.If you want to speak to a doc ask for the registrar or consultant,no one less senior than that.hope things work out ok
    I would gather from oceanclub points that he had made several attempts to speak to a doctor regarding his fathers condition. The least the doctors could have done is return his call to arrange a meeting, I would presume that is not too much to ask when his father is very ill?
    'This life is not a dress rehearsal, we only get one shot at today'

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    Politics.ie Member spidermom's Avatar
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    Default Re: Informing next of kin - what rules?

    ask the ward manager to set up a patient conference.sit down with everyone and thrash it out.the nurse may well have passed on the phone messages,the fault surely lies with the medic!was this the same hospital that your dad was diagnosed in and the same set of docs?
    When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity.

    ALBERT EINSTEIN

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    Default Re: Informing next of kin - what rules?

    Quote Originally Posted by spidermom
    ask the ward manager to set up a patient conference.sit down with everyone and thrash it out.the nurse may well have passed on the phone messages,the fault surely lies with the medic!was this the same hospital that your dad was diagnosed in and the same set of docs?
    Same hospital, but he appears to be under another set of doctors right now. During his previous stay (around 2 months ago), he had been under 2 different sets of doctors (one before diagnosis, one after).

    P.
    "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

  10. #10
    Politics.ie Member spidermom's Avatar
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    Default Re: Informing next of kin - what rules?

    ask for the second set of docs to take him over. i presume these may have been palliative care team?? maybe not. if this is a "big hospital" ask for the palliative team to take over his care, if his time here has been shortened you NEED these guys to be looking after him.I'm so sorry,it is not an easy time for you.try and make the most of the time you have left, leave the anger till later.treasure the time that you have,you won't get it back,safe journey!
    good luck
    When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity.

    ALBERT EINSTEIN

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