Monday, November 12, 2007

Medical Divorce

Went to my first tumor board today. It was pretty cool, nice to finally see some real pathology from actual patients. One patient had Burkitt's Lymphoma with the classic starry sky appearance, that one was particularly interesting. They had her on some sort of a port through her head to give her intrathecal chemo, I need to look that one up and see why intrathecal rather than systemic. It was nice seeing actual doctors review cases together and ask each other questions about why they handled certain cases the way they had. Also need to look up EGFR.

There was one patient who had had 4 stereotypic screening biopsies in two regions of her left breast, and one from each region showed pretty severe calcifications. It was documented that all physicians involved independently recommended a mastectomy, and the patient refused. A girl from my class spoke up and said she'd seen her in primary care, and she was a very difficult patient. She's a smoker with emphysema and uncontrolled diabetes, and she also has temporal arteritis but refuses to get a biopsy done. Between that and the diabetes, it's only a (probably short) amount of time until she goes blind. My classmate said her rationale for refusing the mastectomy is that she saw a program on TV where a lady had a total mastectomy and then ended up being cancer free. She firmly believed that when the biopsies were done, the cancer was now gone and she was cured.

The oncologist in the room said that it was important for all docs involved not only to chart that she'd refused the mastectomy, but also have her sign a paper saying the same. He said that he'd divorced her. A ripple went through the crowd that each doc involved had done the same, and her primary care was getting ready to.

Such an interesting term to use for basically kicking a patient out, divorced. I've much more commonly heard it referred to as firing a patient, but that one doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense either. Where does the responsibility of the doctor end and the responsibility of the patient begin? And how is it helping the whole situation if the doctors involved switch from being primarily concerned about the patient's well-being to being concerned about not getting sued? I guess it makes them more aware that the patient understand exactly what she's turning down, but I feel like the system is forcing us to compromise our ethics at times. I mean, I know the responsibility of the doc can only go so far, but it seems wrong that good doctors need to "divorce" a patient when they realize that the patient is an idiot and their risk of getting sued is too high. I wonder if the older docs, or I guess the middle aged ones who've dealt with this longer even realize how fucked up it is anymore. I hope they do.


EGFR is "
epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR; ErbB-1; HER1 in humans) is the cell-surface receptor for members of the epidermal growth factor family (EGF-family) of extracellular protein ligands." Yeah Wikipedia. I thought it was some sort of growth factor.

And here it talks about why to use intrathecal chemo in Burkitt's, there's a high chance of meningeal involvement.

And bam I was right that the Burkitt's translocation is t(8;14).

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