Should I send this letter? Would it do any good?

Ten years ago my mother died of ovarian cancer. As she suffered through chemotherapy, she wrote a deposition in long hand in which she described the actions of her first doctor and asked her children to take action against him if she died. This “doctor” had postponed a critical CAT scan when she first felt a mass in her abdomen because he said he would be embarrassed if it turned out to be only impacted stool in the bowel. Because of his inaction, this very fast-growing type of cancer had almost an additional week to attack her. Finally, he scheduled her for surgery with a very good cancer surgeon. But it was too late. She suffered nearly six months on chemotherapy. I’ll spare you the detaials of that horror. Those of you who have nursed a loved one through it know how terrible it is. She lost her battle, and my siblings and I lost a wonderful mother at least partly because an arrogant son of a bitch who called himself a doctor didn’t want to be embarrassed.

The family was very much shaken by the loss of our mother, and the deposition was first shunted aside in the rush of details of funeral preparation and settling her estate, then forgotten until I ran across it a while ago. Legal action is now impossible, but I wrote a letter to the doctor in the hope of at least shaming him. Now I don’t know whether it’s even a good idea to send the leter. It won’t change anything. And the likelihood is that such an arrogant person will not be moved anyway. But a little venting won’t do any harm, unless the bastard somehow feels threatened. I was careful not to be theatening in any way.
The letter follows:

Dr. _____

You are a very lucky man. Lucky because I didn’t run across the enclosed letter more than ten years ago after my mother, your patient, _______ ____ died of ovarian cancer. Our entire family were so aggrieved by her loss that we simply forgot the deposition (enclosed) that my sister and I had both witnessed. Ours is not a family that sues people, not even people like you, who like to call themselves healers, but who are in fact merely businessmen (in the meanest sense of that word). At any rate, the statute of limitations has made the issue moot.

Nevertheless I want you to know that we hold you morally, if not medically responsible for the death of our mother. If it were not for your vanity, if you had acted with urgency as you should, the nature of Mom’s problem (ovarian cancer) would have been discovered almost a week before it was. During that week, the rapidly growing cancer increased its hold on her body, to the extent that Dr. __________ could not remove enough of it. It had already attacked the bowel, something that might not have happened if your actions had been more timely.

The details are in the deposition. You failed to act for almost a week because it have “embarrassed” you if the CAT scan had turned up only stool in the bowel. Your arrogance cost the life of a much better person than you. I hope that if your own mother is still living she never finds herself in the hands of a “doctor” like you. And I hold out the vain hope that you have the decency to be embarrassed now.

Larry ____, on behalf of Sherry, Jim and Ted (her other children) and a large extended family who still grieve for her.

What you you think I should do? Send it? Forget it?

Mom’s first name was Beverly.

As you already recognize, he probably won’t be moved. The letter wouldn’t do much good.

However, maybe you should call the newspaper and/or television station in the area where the doctor lives and tell your story. Journalists are always looking for a good excuse to humiliate evil people (the “evil” part being semi-optional). Maybe this guy has killed before, or since. Not only would you earn some revenge, but you might get to be on TV, too!

Did the one week delay make a real difference to the outcome?

Was the doctor’s comment about embarrassment just a figure of speech (albeit perhaps an inappropriate and ill-considered one) in his attempt to justify his professional judgment on a matter?

If the same thing happened tomorrow, to someone else, what would a doctor do (do, not say)?

Is sending the letter and dragging the whole sorry business out into the light going to lay things to rest or is it going to create more misery and sadness for you and your family?

I had written quite a long reply, but basically, ditto what ** Mangetout** said!

If you feel it would be carrying out your mother’s wishes, perhaps a less confrontational letter would make you feel better, simply telling him you are unhappy with the treatment she received and hope he has learnt to deal seriously with all complaints now. However he feels, I doubt you’ll get any apology or recognition though, simply because he would feel he would be leaving himself open to legal action. With this in mind, do you really want to drag up the pain again?

I am very sorry for your sad loss.

Perhaps, before you send that letter, you might wish to contact a lawyer.
IANAL, but it is possible that a wrongful-death suit might carry no limit of time in which it can be filed… much like murder charges do not (in most of the nation) adhere to a statute of limitations.

To add to what GrizzRich said, even though you’re not the suing type (and I applaud that), if it turns out that the statute of limitations has not run out and you could sue, the money could always go to a charity.

Desert geezer maybe if you send it , it will get this ass over his pride and keep it from happening to someone elses mother

Drop it. Move on.

My mother was misdiagnosed as well. Her doctor kept insisting that it was pneumonia when it was actually a galloping form of breast cancer. Took them about a month to figure out what was really going on, but honestly, I just don’t think it would have made any difference. She was riddled.
One week wouldn’t probably have made any difference to your mom either.

You’re probably right, jlzania, and I’m sure that it would be impossible to prove that a week’s delay in her surgery would have made the difference. Ovarian cancer is insidious in that, by the time it is diiscovered it is usually too lake. The only reason I thought this doctor might be at least partly responsible is that ovarian is a particularly fast-growing cancer. I’m just angry at this doctor because his wasn’t a misdiagnosis, but a delayed one, and only because he didn’t want to suffer embarrassment at ordering a CAT scan for something mundane and easily cured.

I’m beginning to think that there is nothing to be gained from pursuing this any further. The more I think about it, the more I realize that this putz is not likely to be shamed by any letter I could send him. I wish I could post his name and address, so that others might avoid him, but that would open me to a lawsuit.

I’m very sorry for your loss, jlzania. However long ago it was, the pain doesn’t stop.

Thanks to all of you who posted. I appreciate your thoughts and advice. I’ll ask the mod to close the thread now, since I’ve decided to leave the letter unsent.

My mother went through a long period of chemotherapy, and we found she suffered from unfortunate psychotic effects, which included lashing out against things that never actually even happened and against people who weren’t even there.

Putting it as gently as possbile, it could be that your mother, in pain from the cancer and under the effects of chemotherapy, mis-remembered the conversations she had with the doctor.

It’s been ten years, I agree that the week probably made very little difference. Remember the good times.

Sounds like you’ve had a very close, loving family. I think you did the right thing by taking time and thinking about the matter before sending the letter. With respect to diagnostic tests, I’ve embarrassed myself by insisting on xrays, etc., only to find I just pulled a muscle or such.

Closed per request.