Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m married to a guy who’s ten years older, but he’s always been
extremely fit and active. He made a living as the head of facility
operations for a multi-site addiction recovery non-profit. Translation:
he was the internal handyman responsible for crawling into, under, or
on top of many buildings that were like apartment houses. He also
helped rehab our older home. He ended up with a bad back and bad
hips, both of which needed to be replaced, with back surgery pending
if the pain didn’t go away after the two hip surgeries. Surgery #1 went
fine and he recovered well, though was in increasing pain before
yesterday’s Surgery #2. An hour before the surgery, while they were
shaving and prepping him, the surgeon asked me in to consent to a
change in procedure: still a hip replacement, but a method that he’d
learned over the weekend at a conference, that is used by the other
top-flight ortho clinic in town. He admitted that my hubby would be his
first, but said that all the nurses were very skilled, as they assisted the
other docs regularly. Surgery #1 took one and a half hours. Three
hours into Surgery #2 I started asking questions. It wasn’t until hour
five! that I got any answers and they weren’t good. The surgeon had
broken my husband’s femur and had to send out for a different
replacement hip. Apparently this happens once in one hundred
surgeries. B U T…I think the odds are higher than that when it is the
surgeon’s first try. And I don’t think we were given nearly enough time
to make an informed decision. I feel angry and railroaded and now we
are facing much longer recuperation, lots more pain, and possibly a
much less robust recovery. What should I do or say, or not do and not


Dear Furious:

I’m neither a doctor nor an attorney. And if you offered me 99 out of
100 odds I’d probably take them. But if you told me I was going to be
the first guinea pig for my surgeon to practice a new procedure I
would almost certainly refuse the honor. To me what’s key is the lack
of time for you to make an informed decision. When you buy a car or
refi a house you usually get three days to change your mind. A
decision that involves carving up body parts should certainly get more
than an hour’s notice.

What to do: Make it clear to the doc and the hospital that you are not
satisfied with the surgical outcome. Say that your immediate concern
is your husband’s health and comfort during recovery. But also stress
that you are nowhere close to done asking questions. First among
people to talk should be to the hospital administrator or director of
peer review. Ask what standard procedures are for informed consent
and also to review bad surgical outcomes. Insist the answers come in
writing. Take the answers to a malpractice attorney for a consult. Let
that conversation guide your next steps.