Somebody is to Blame for This

This is not a post about programming, or being a geek. In all likelihood, this is not a post you will enjoy reading. Consider yourselves warned.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

Only thing I can write is “I should have heeded to your warning”.

Hey Jeff,

when my mother was fighting breast cancer, watching the recording (and afterwards reading the book) of the “last lecture” by Randy Pausch has given me tremendous insight in life in general and beeing happy. If you do not know it, you should have a look.

Without wishing to appear callous, the question at the top of my mind is this: why do the lawyers feel that they have to manipulate the jury’s emotions so completely to get the result they want?

Under these circumstances, I just don’t understand how it’s possible for an impartial verdict to be reached. We’re all human. If this is a case of medical malpractice, how is the (shocking and cruel) fact that the victim left behind a family in the slightest bit relevant to what the surgeons did or did not do on the day?

As humans we’re simply not capable of completely subsuming our cognitive biases, and only one side here has the freedom to take advantage of them. Regardless of the merits of the case, that’s simply wrong.

You, and the family involved, have my sympathies.

I have two little girls. One is two and a half and the other is almost one. These kind of things terrify me, and I have this morbid mentality where I often find myself following the train of thought down a tragedy to mentally prepare myself for how I would deal with it. What I always realize, when it comes down to it, is that this is what gives me hope:

It’s what calms my fears and gives me something to hold on to, especially the promise of eternal families.

I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and have never felt the need to comment on your excellent articles, but I just felt impressed to share this. Thanks for your wonderful insights.

Thanks Jeff, now my face is a big :frowning:

But seriously, it’s good to share this stuff. You can’t bottle this level of emotion indefinitely or it will just burn you up. You need to talk about it so you can reason with it and understand what you’re feeling.

The Moth Stories video of Anthony Griffith is the most real thing I think I’ve ever seen on the internet. By that I mean I don’t think I’ve empathised so strongly with anything.

It also disgusts me.

It was recorded almost ten years ago, describing an event well over ten years before that. I can’t, wont comprehend just how somebody can have something like that inside them for thirteen years. When you watch the video, you’re witnessing thirteen years of the most horrific torture compressed into a few minutes. I want to flinch but I can’t. This record of his pain will always be there and I can’t do anything to stop his pain in it.

Then you start to wonder: does he still feel this way? Is there a corner in his mind that he can’t start to talk about without shouting, without crying, without reliving every precious minute of those years where he both gained and lost everything?

It actually scares me. To suffer the initial pain is bad enough but that’s life, that’s the ride. But to be trapped in the pain for decades like some sort of Sisyphean loop… Well, it’s unimaginable.

Reminds me of the time I was a juror on a rape trial. Oh happy memories of youth.

There are no words.
But there have to be, in time.
Right now there aren’t.

I would try to talk you out of the way you are feeling, because it is hard to see other people’s sadness, and it would help me avoid confronting my own mortality. But that would be the wrong thing to do.

It’s just tragic.

I don’t thing that there is always somebody to blame. Bad things happen to nice people. In this particular case you could possible blame the doctors, nurses or hospital. Are they really to blame? Do they wanted to harm this man or his family? Look it from their perceptive. In every medical action there is statistical risk of something going wrong. It could be 0.1%, 1% or so. Doctors are humans and make mistakes; bad practice from doctors is also included into this percentage and shouldn’t be left out of the equation. Should we blame doctors every time something goes wrong? Do we have to put the family, the accused doctors and jury through this painfully process? (How happy was the family, look at the children now). Of course the doctors and hospital shouldn’t just go away, but they should pay an amount to the family. But this should be judged on purely technical matters. How bad their practice was, what is the likelihood of this happening, have they properly informed the patient about what might go wrong and so on.

And as a side note. Would you have been writing the same length post if the man has died of some more natural cause? Like a car accident or a disease? Something that there is really no one to blame for?

In my opinion looking for someone to blame for, doesn’t really help the family to deal with their loss. People must understand that we aren’t here for ever, we must not hang on the past and we should live every moment of our lives. That is what our lost beloved would want us to do.

So your point seems to be that the family is justified to waste so much time for everyone because blaming someone makes it easier to cope with the pain?

A thought provoking piece on the impact of someone’s death through an accident. I think about this sometimes; how would the wife and kids be if I was killed? Commuting to work (in the UK) on a bicycle every day I get plenty of reminders just how realistic this possibility is with the small minority of drivers who don’t see me, don’t care about me or are just deliberately aggressive. Maybe if they realised the impact someone’s death has, they’d be a bit more careful.

Reading Kostas’ comment maybe those drivers wouldn’t be more careful. Maybe they’d just think it was an unavoidable ‘accident’ if they hit me while they were on the phone, or were over the speed limit, or simply not looking where they we’re going (all of which have happened to me in the past, luckily without serious injury so far). Bottom line - people need to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

"We get on the ride because we know there will be thrills and chills. Nobody gets on a rollercoaster that goes in a straight line. That's what you sign up for when you get on the ride with the rest of us: there will be highs, and there will be lows. And those lows – whether they are, God forbid, your own, or someone else's – are what makes the highs so sweet. The ride is what it is because the pain of those valleys teaches us."

I disagree.

My first boyfriend and I were together just shy of nine years. He died suddenly last year. He’d be 35 now.

It hurts. It fucking hurts and you can’t fix it. It’s like an exposed live wire in your brain. You get better at avoiding it; you can even forget it sometimes, you’re so well-practised at dancing around it; but it’s still there and will still hurt you if you touch it. All you can do is slowly learn how to be happy again without feeling guilty that you’re still here, learn to keep living and feel good sometimes and do all the things he should be able to do too.

Perhaps I’ll change my mind one day. But right now? No. I disagree, Jeff. You don’t need those lows to treasure the highs. I don’t appreciate life any more. I don’t feel that I’ve learned much from the experience. It just fucking hurts and I’d be happier if I didn’t have that.

This wife will feel sad for a long, long time, I think. She will do her best to keep things together for her children, and eventually reach a place where she can feel happy again for a few days at a time without crashing against the gut-wrenching sadness of losing a husband. But I don’t think it will make her happiness any sweeter.

If there’s a lesson to take from this, Jeff, it would be to look after yourself and your family, and bring them as much happiness as you can right now, every day. Because when something happens to them and it hurts that bad? They won’t appreciate the lesson they took from it. They won’t savour the highs of life any more. It’s part of the ride, but it doesn’t make the rest of the ride any better.

It just fucking hurts.

I know it’s not the point of your post. But we’re all wanting to know what the verdict was. I hope, if he really did just throw a clot, it was not-guilty. Things happen. Sad things happen. They can’t always be prevented or reasonably predicted. It’s not always someone’s fault.

I am not an attorney but, unless the trial is over, I think you are in trouble.

Thanks for sharing. There are many dark, sad, terrible things that happen in our life (hopefully not, but they do) and most people don’t ever want to talk about them or hear them. To me that’s a sad state for humanity. We should be able to share the good and the bad. Not because it’s sad, but because we should listen to others stories, to our own. It’s good to get stuff off your chest and live life, scars and all. For example we have a wonderful sweet 7 month old girl now who is amazing in every way to us. But it was a very long rough road to get here and people don’t like to hear that part of having kids. People don’t want to hear you had multiple miscarriages, all the shed tears over the children you’ll never get to see, hold, kiss, watch grow up, live life. So I fully understand this story and it’s point. After having been through all that, I can say when I look at my daughter, I believe I see her in a different light. She is more precious to me and I truly try to treasure the moments more as I don’t know how many I will get. Even the sleepless nights.

Thanks Jeff.

I am five years on from my younger brother dying of cancer at the age of 23 (on my 29th birthday, the swine! - his last “brotherly act”). It doesn’t compare to losing a child - I know, having talked to my parents about it - yet alone a young child, but the trauma and pain is still real.

To respond to Oli;

“Then you start to wonder: does he still feel this way?”

I spent a year or so working it through in my head, anything and everything made me cry. (that Futurama episode where Fry finds his brother had called Fry’s nephew ‘Philip’ after the brother he lost - that had me weeping and weeping - in fact I’m tearing up now just thinking about it).

Since then I have been gradually getting better. At the moment I function normally most of the time except round about this time of year when we approach the anniversary of his death.

But even now I can’t say “my younger brother died at the age of 23” without getting emotional.

Catharsis works. Talk about it. It makes it easier. Cry, scream, break things, let your grief out. Letting grief fester is like letting an infection bubble away under your skin - rip it open, clean out the wound, let the light in. I wrote pages and pages of letters to David whilst I was dealing with the pain in the first months or so - one each night - until they naturally started to tail off.

Over time you get to a point where you seem to function normally and you can operate properly. You push onwards with your life and even start to experience the highs and lows again.

They tell you that time heals all wounds - it doesn’t, that’s poppycock. Time puts some distance between you and the pain. You can go back to it but it has receded from view. And it’s different for different people. My Dad is still in the primary grieving stage for David, he’s not capable of moving on although my new niece (2 yo) is helping with that, giving him something new and joyous to focus on.

Enough rambling! I just wanted to respond to the video and the comments. Hope someone finds it helpful in understanding how some people cope.

Sobbing at work. Thanks a lot! >:(

Fantastic article, Jeff. Thank you for sharing it. Seriously.

The trouble is people aren’t aware of just how serious blood clots can be, or how easy it is to get them. David Bloom being one of the more famous incidents (

I have twice had blood clots in my lung. Fortunately small enough to pass through and make it to my lung. The incidents were 9 years apart, both caused from too much uninterrupted sitting while programming.

Once you have this occur and survive, you will be put on blood thinners. I recently fell in my kitchen. The fall was very hard, but I appeared to be unhurt. One month later I was having my lung operated on to remove the blood that had collected in my chest wall. Blood thinners can be as dangerous as the blood clots.

What I get out of this, is to enjoy each day that I have. Problems seem smaller and less important then spending time with my family. Who is to blame for my problems? Myself. I should have paid more attention to the information I already had and was ignoring.

I don’t know who is to blame for this man’s death, but blood clots are a known risk of surgery. It’s important to stay mobile and hydrated. If you have a blood clot, death can be near instantaneous in it’s worst scenario.

I like to think that in some cosmic sort of way each one of us that listens and cries along with Anthony or the family in Jeff’s court case, that we lessen their pain in some way just by sharing.