Editor’s note: This post by one of the great CTOs in the DC ecosystem, Dave Mihelcic, hits on a topic all of us in the tech community should be tracking and, to the greatest extent possible, working to improve.-bg
I recently read with horror and empathy several articles about a man who was told by a video linked “robot” doctor that he was going to die . We lived through a similar experience just one week ago. My son-in-law, dying from stage IV cancer, was subjected to a similar robotic doctor in Inova Loudoun Hospital last week. Nick was at the end of a long and painful battle with cancer. His doctors had confirmed no further treatment would help. He was in the hospital and just wanted to sign a DNR and go to hospice. Instead of just allowing the transfer, the hospital instead wheeled in a video conference unit and told Nick that he had to do a competency interview with a psychiatrist first. The psychiatrist was a scant 8 miles away. The video failed the first two times. The social worker in the room said the doctor likes to do them on his iphone and it never works. The third time it was nearly impossible for Nick to hear the doctor and vice versa. Nick could barely speak and had to go through the agony of answering inane questions over and over, for 35 minutes.
To make matters worse, Nick’s wife, my daughter Nina, was totally in agreement with Nick’s wishes. If the psychiatrist had decided Nick was unfit to make his own decision, it would have fallen to her, and the outcome would have been the same. So, for no real reason, I had to watch in horror the surreal dehumanizing of my son-in-law and daughter via video conference. It felt more like an eerie “Black Mirror” episode than a hospital just a few miles from our home.
Eventually the psychiatrist volunteered that he believed Nick was not suicidal and was competent to make his own decisions. My daughter was in the room the entire time and this was just one more experience to shatter her last 24 hours with her husband. Mercifully, he was transferred to hospice and was able to die with a measure of peace within 12 hours. What happened to Nick and Nina was wrong and should not happen to any patient or family member.
Please tell Nick’s story. Perhaps if we can surface how far the lack of compassion has gone, we can push for a change.
If you would like to know a little more about Nick, please read The Life of Nicholas Butler or reach out to me on Facebook or LinkedIn. If you would like to help Nina as she raises and educates their young daughters Ella Virginia and Vera Darlene, please consider donating to the Nicholas A Butler Memorial Fund
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