An analysis of sin, our fallen world, and Biblical truth is critical to understanding what to do when things go wrong in the life of a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. We are all human and will make mistakes, some with dire consequences in our own life or the lives of others. Such philosophical gymnastics is not my strong suit but heeding the discernment of the Holy Spirit is mine for sure. And the Lord’s leading was clear recently. When faced with a recent dilemma of how to handle a potential case of medical malpractice, I turned to God’s Word, the ears of a Christian friend, writers smarter than me, journaling and prayer. Here’s the story.
A thyroid condition very likely was mismanaged for twenty-nine years of my adult life.
There were at least five Medical Doctors involved in the management of my thyroid condition over the course of my adult life. The Doctor completing a routine physical for my first job out of college made the diagnosis of hypothyroidism when he palpated nodules on my thyroid. I was a young woman, horrified and scared! I was told (in those days of the Merck Manual and before the internet) that thyroid nodules were relatively common, benign, and needed to be treated with medication. After all, hypothyroidism runs in my family! The drugs the different Doctors gave me changed over the years but the basic treatment goals never did: suppress the thyroid with synthetic hormones and “monitor” the nodules. This process was difficult at times when switching to more natural preparations or when a Doc suspected that there was an interaction going on between female hormone and thyroid hormone levels. However, nothing would be as “difficult” as daily convulsive episodes that very likely were related to this issue.
Enter here 8 years of a serious illness portrayed by dozens of disabling symptoms, the worst of which was seizures every day. At times they were so violent that screams erupted from deep within me often followed an inability to breathe and sometimes passing out in bed shortly thereafter. The head-banging and severity of high-velocity, involuntary movements created significant orthopedic injuries, taking me in-and-out of various manual therapies because of course I could not tolerate pain medication. My activities of daily living were strained and altered beyond belief; any noxious sensory stimuli, the time of day, and seemingly unrelated triggers set off the episodes for sometimes hours per day. I awakened with them. I fell asleep with them. I tried to live around them as best I could after hours of recovery. Only by the grace of God did I survive this time in my life. Sometimes I would have to wait for hours before my limbs would work right to carry myself to the bathroom. Other days if they occurred when my gracious husband was home, he carried me to the bathroom, fed me, or drove me to the emergency room. Our life was hell much of the time. Steve never knew what state he would find me in when he returned home from work . . .
Significant testing, research, treatments, expense, extreme avoidance strategies, travel to one specialist or another, sleep deprivation, and more characterized those eight years always hoping for some level of recovery. I didn’t only try CBD oil but SIX BRANDS of pharmaceutical-grade CBD oil at two different stages of the illness. One summer I plastered a hallway wall with dozens of sheets of paper including: a daily calendar, extensive treatment record, functional medicine charts, genetic testing results, and anything else I could think in a search for trends or clues. I was largely bed-bound in 2015 and spent 2016 receiving IV infusions of antibiotics through costly home health nursing care. Treatments would ease my worst symptom for a limited time then stop working with exception of oral Prednisone. The only problem with using steroids is that they are contraindicated in osteoporosis which came along as part of this journey as well. I had to reserve PRN Prednisone for only the worst episodes each month because my primary Doctor would not order it more frequently.
Three years ago, a Naturopathic Physician came the closest to finding the “root cause” of the serious illness when he tested for and diagnosed an autoimmune thyroid condition. Bio-homeopathic injections (among other treatments) brought most of the labs within normal range but there was no appreciable change in my symptoms. I continued the injections just the same at a considerable out-of-pocket expense. Eventually I learned to give myself the injection, saving me an additional $20 per shot. It was pretty amazing that I was able to administer the subcutaneous medication when needle sticks of any kind generally resulted in violent convulsive episodes! Somehow I got it done.
So this year when I finally made it to the Mayo Clinic, and after pleading with the neurologists to let me see one of their endocrinologists, a friendly, Indian Doctor NAILED IT. He said I was on too much thyroid medication! I have hyperthyroidism not hypothyroidism. A quick review of the literature found that it is hyperthyroidism that coincides with multi-nodule goiters in addition to half a dozen other symptoms that I was experiencing. The treatment is vastly different from anything I had ever been prescribed for 29 years! He immediately cut my medication in half while I waited for the new prescription to arrive in the mail. And within days, over six symptoms began to improve with the most significant being reduced convulsive episodes. It is now 4 weeks later and the trend continues. I have had several days free of seizures and dozens with barely a little zip of a tic!
The change in my life is nothing short of shocking. I discuss the other findings at Mayo Clinic HERE and the beginning of this saga HERE. There are videos of the episodes HERE with an attempt to share my faith in Christ Who alone has helped Steve and I endure the worst of days. This blog exists to help me cope with this serious illness. The Lord carried me to all of those appointments over the years, helped me make dinner or my husband’s lunch when my head was pounding, or even walked with me to open up the back door for our pup each day with thousands of seizures going on.
Then this week I wondered what should I do about the oversight, even incompetency of those five Doctors I trusted but who gave me the wrong diagnosis and the wrong treatment? Maybe the “best practice” for the management of certain thyroid conditions has changed since they went to medical school or maybe they forgot the basic standards of care? Why did they never refer me to an endocrinologist for comprehensive care? A second opinion? I never thought to ask to see a specialist as they all made it seem that ordering and reading the lab results were routine parts of my diagnosis. Repeat scans and testing were ordered somewhat irregularly and only tiny changes were ever made to compounded prescriptions because I was so “sensitive.” No one ever questioned the original diagnosis, why my lab values never stabilized, or why I could not tolerate medication changes.
In recent contacts with my current two Doctors, they each asked about the findings of my consults at Mayo Clinic. Both of them minimized the change in diagnosis to hyperthyroidism, need for a drastic reduction in medication, and impact on the hellish illness that eluded both of them. Neither apologized nor assumed any responsibility for missing the mark. As my mind is becoming clearer, my thoughts turned to the topic of medical malpractice. After all, both of them were negligent. A friend suggested I spend some time in prayer and Bible study, seeking wisdom as I was becoming increasingly angry, hurt, betrayed, hot! It didn’t take long though to find 1 Corinthians 6 and multiple Christian writers discouraging the believer from lawsuits against fellow believers. Yes, both Doctors appear to be Christians. What now? Wow, Lord, settle my soul . . .
I’ll repeat what I feel is the best advice and perspective that I have found for persons who are believers that are also wondering how to handle this situation. It comes from James Druckenbrod in the November 1991 issue of The Linacre Quarterly (a publication of the Catholic Medical Association and the denomination who has written most extensively on the topic of medical malpractice and the Christian response).
. . . from a Christian ethical perspective, it becomes apparent that something basic is wrong with a society that so easily, and more frequently, can blame its “helping” professions for errors, and receive restitution in unlike kind (money rather than health or life). Either the “helping” medical profession falls short of its professed ethics to heal the sick, or society falls short of its understanding of what healing in modern times is all about. Or as this paper will suggest, both groups fall short of the gospel imperative of charity that becomes the way that the Christian communities display the vision of the Kingdom of God to a modern, pluralistic, and secular society. An underlying thesis is that medical malpractice has resulted from the secularization of the vocation of medicine. In the process of secularization, the basic social unit of the doctor-patient relationship, the spiritual union of God, doctor, and patient has been severely disrupted. The doctor as well as the patient and society have all contributed to this disruption by each taking their own advantage of the changes. A possible solution to medical malpractice for the Christian patients and doctors can be found in a return to gospel imperatives of trust in God, and obedience to God’s commandments.
I could fill many pages with all of the secular and Christian angles on the topic of medical malpractice with regards to what happened to me. I am going to choose to go with the mandate of 1 Corinthians 6 and the concept suggested above of charity; I will decline a medical malpractice lawsuit or taking my issue before the church in favor of lying it all at the throne of grace of my Lord, Jesus Christ. I do intend to approach each Doctor again about my care then write each of them a short letter on the matter. These will require much prayer and preparation. I still need their care in other areas of my health. But they aren’t touching my thyroid! For now I will reserve endocrinology issues for the Doctor at Mayo Clinic who knows the most and is helping to turn my life around. I just don’t trust anyone else with the new diagnosis of hyperthyroidism. Gentle Reader, perhaps you agree? JJ