Bedside Manner | Giftie Etcetera: Bedside Manner

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bedside Manner

I know that, as an attorney, a lot of people come to me just because I contact them regularly and listen to them. I try to always do flawless, well-thought out legal work, but the bottom line is that good legal work doesn't get you referrals. Instead, excellent customer service gets you referrals. In short, an attorney's bedside manner, so to speak, matters more than their legal ability.

With doctors, I'm convinced that the same yardstick applies. Take, for example, something that happened to a friend yesterday. She tested positive for Strep B (as do about a 1/3 of pregnant women). It is treated by IV antibiotics immediately before delivery, and that almost always takes care of the problem. But when she asks what Strep B meant for her baby, the doctor said, "it could die."

HELLO! Horrible bedside manner, I would say. :( That doctor should lose his license.

Yes, a baby can die from Strep B. But...only 1/4,000 babies will contract Strep B from mom's who get the appropriate antibiotic during labor (which a mom with a positive test WILL get). Of that 1/4,000, most will live. In fact, only 2,000 babies a year die of this, and MOST of those are born from women who do not get the antibiotic during delivery.

Children can also die from the flu, chicken pox, reactions to otherwise live-saving vaccines, get my point. Can a child die from Strep B? Yes, of course they can. Will her child die from Strep B? He is much more likely to die in a car accident. So, no, he won't.

The doctor should have explained this, at least a little.

Clients call me all the time because they want to not follow a court order. For example, the judge mandates when the child is two that dad gets reasonable visitation. For 8 years, dad is an alcoholic who never once visits the kids. Suddenly, the kid is 10 and dad stops by to pick the kid up. Dad is drunk at the time. Is any sane attorney going to say, "yes, put your kid in the drunk's car?" Of course not. So won't the "good" parent be in contempt and couldn't the "good" parent go to jail?

The simple answer...the judge could put you in jail indefinitely, until you are willing to comply with the order.

The more RESPONSIBLE, realistic answer...yes, jail is a possibility. But it is unlikely, and you need to consider your child's safety first and foremost.

Now, please do NOT take this as legal advice. Call your lawyer for legal advice. But understand, I would consider it malpractice if I simply told a client, "yes, you can go to jail" without further explanation. And that is most less horrible than "yes, your child could die." Bedside manner, people. It's important.


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