What Is Your Advice for Providers about Communicating with Patients After Adverse Events?

IHI Open School Video Short Transcript

Helen Haskell, MA, mother of Lewis Blackman, a 15-year-old boy who died from medical error, President of Mothers Against Medical Error, and member of the IHI Board of Directors

I think you need to talk to people. The family needs to talk to the people who were involved. But one of the things that I’ve learned over the years, is that different families have very different reactions. I’ve had cases where the doctor was trying to call the family all the time to talk to them, and they wouldn’t talk to him. As Rick Boothman says, “Don’t expect people to love you for this.” You have just killed or injured their loved one, and they aren’t going to love you, most of the time.

In our case, we were very, very grateful because our providers were finding their way, but did the right thing and they were available to us. You need to talk to the family and you need to continue to be available, even if the family rejects your advances. You need to look at it as a selfless action that you need to undertake. If you’re at fault for something that’s done, then you just have to accept that and you have to do the best you can do to ameliorate it for that family and for future families.