People often see their coworkers cutting corners. It can cause a real dilemma for the person who witnessed it. But, what it's even worse when it's in the medical field. People's lives are at stake in that case.
Here are all the best stories from Reddit about medical staff seeing coworkers do unethical things. Content has been edited for clarity.
This Doctor Took “Justice” Into His Own Hands
“This happened when I was a medical student working in the ER. This 20 something male was drinking and driving when he crashed his car into an elderly couple causing them to require emergency surgery. He was belligerent and walking around naked in the trauma bay. Nurses were trying to get him to calm down and stay in his room and stop yelling. He was calling the nurses names and asking to go to the bathroom so they gave him a urinal. As he was urinating, my attending went up to him and said: ‘I want you on that bed right now.’ The patient cursed at him so my attending knocked the urinal out of his hand, pee went flying all over the room.
He picked him up and threw him on the bed and pushed some medicine through his IV to paralyze him. Then he seemed to take his time with intubating him, letting his O2 saturation get down into the 40’s before finally letting him breathe again. I don’t know what ended up happening to the guy in the long run. Turns out he had just broken up with his girlfriend and went on a drinking binge. He deserved to be punished for what he did, but I don’t think he deserved to be forcibly intubated for no reason other than causing a scene.”
Being A Doctor Is Not A 9-5 Job
“I once knew an OB who didn’t like to work after about 5 pm. At the end of office hours, if they had someone in labor, they would swing by labor and delivery and find a reason to do a c-section on them. Sometimes they blamed the baby’s heart rate tracing, whether it was justified or not. But, the classic one would be that they would check the patient’s cervix and lie about how dilated it was so it seemed as if labor wasn’t progressing rapidly enough. That way they could say, ‘I just don’t think this is going to work’, cut her, and be home for dinner. Now in OB, we love TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) and one of the real indications for a cesarean is CPD (cephalo-pelvic disproportion), which is where the baby’s head is too big for the pelvis. But for this particular doc, we always said that they cut patients for CPD (Cesarean Prior to Dinner).
I didn’t report this doc because it’s not possible to report someone for a subjective judgment call. As for this doc not being allowed to practice anymore, a hospital can’t revoke privileges for being a bad doc even if they want to. The law is written in such a way that the hospital would easily be sued for restraint of trade. I don’t like it but unless laws get changed, that’s what we’re stuck with.”
She Couldn’t Be In Medicine After Seeing All This
“When I was a paramedic, I worked with a real jerk who bragged about taking advantage of female patients who were unconscious. I didn’t believe him so to prove himself, he grabbed a female patient who was elderly and pretty out of it in the back of the ambulance. He later assaulted me. I reported it to our management and no one believed me. He even twisted it around to say that I had a crush on him and that he rejected me and that was why I made this up. A few months later, he was working on a car at home and caught himself on fire. Karma!
When I worked in the hospital, one of the nurses left the bed down after changing the sheets. The patient was at risk for aspiration and was not supposed to have the head left down. He died within an hour from choking on his vomit. The nurse adjusted the bed and covered the whole thing up.
When I worked in ICU, I would routinely see doctors ask what insurance patients had while working codes. If it was a Medicaid patient, meaning the hospital would profit less, they would call the codes sooner. If the patient had private insurance, they would do more.
This is why I no longer work in medicine.”
Not Sure That Was His Call
“I’m a General Surgery resident. We had a patient that had been on our service for about a year. Older fellow, very sick. Every now and then, he would go into respiratory distress and be intubated for a bit, but he would always bounce back to his baseline of 8/10 sick. Everyone called him ‘the rock.’ But not in a cool, ‘Do you smell what The Rock is cooking,’ way. In a boring sick person that sits there way.
Well, he had always been a full code. That means that in the case of dying, we do everything we can to keep him alive. After a loooong time of being impatient, my attending was sick of him and made him a DNR/I, which means let him pass if he starts to struggle. He didn’t want this, but they got away with it saying that he did not have the capacity (he was decently with it, but I can see that argument). So talks with the family started and they specifically stated that they wanted full code. My attending didn’t agree and decided to call them to confirm. But we think he purposefully called the wrong number many times and eventually decided for himself that he was DNR/I.
Two days later, the guy went into respiratory distress and died. I came to rounds the next morning to two attendings yelling and screaming about the ‘right thing to do.’
Maybe I feel that it’s better that he passed as well, but his wishes and his families wishes were ignored and purposefully evaded. I could never go against someone’s wishes.”
Just Like Grey’s Anatomy
“I’m a physician and used to work twelve-hour night shifts at this hospital in California. My co-worker (who was also a doctor and, admittedly, a young and good-looking fellow) and I covered pages from different floors. If there was nothing going on, I would usually be in my call room reading/sleeping/watching TV until a nurse would page me for a problem. My colleague’s on-call room shared the same wall with mine.
One night, I was reading in my room, when I started hearing my colleague and another woman fooling around. The noises started getting louder and fairly difficult to ignore (sorry, but she was pretty loud). Then, in the middle of this charade, I heard his pager go off several times without him answering it.
Eventually, I left the room and called the hospital operator. I asked her who had paged that doctor and then called the nurse who was trying to get in touch with him.
Turns out, the page was for a patient that was in a serious condition and had to be taken to the ICU. I took care of everything and went back to my room. Later on, I told him that they were paging him for a critically ill patient overhead and that he must have fallen asleep (I didn’t say anything about hearing him). But I think he knew that I knew because he got red and thanked me for covering for him.
This sort of activity among younger physicians and residents is not uncommon. Chances are, many of the writers of your favorite TV shows draw inspiration from actual events. I wouldn’t be surprised if another physician had a very similar experience to mine.”
Fudging The Numbers
“I’m a nurse but I took a job working in the post-open heart ICU at a small regional hospital. They had lost their senior cardiac surgeons several years before and hired two new guys. The cardiology group that left moved a majority of their practice to another hospital across town that ended up becoming one of the top 100 cardiac hospitals in the US. The hospital I took a job at was desperately trying to compete and was collecting data on their open heart patients and their outcomes to submit for some sort of cardiac center certification. Certain things like post-op infection and death within 30 days after surgery are BIG dings against their data. When the numbers weren’t looking good, they hid things. For example, a patient a few days out of surgery clearly began to develop an infection in his sternal incision. I watched as the PA squeezed pus out of it. When I asked if they wanted a swab to send down to culture for antibiotic sensitivity, they shot daggers at me with their eyes and said, ‘No, this isn’t an infection, but we’ll start them on some broad-spectrum antibiotics for prophylactic treatment.’ Shocked. Sending a culture means it’s documented in the chart somewhere that they had a clearly identified infection, but starting antibiotics because you want to try to ‘prevent’ infection is ok.
They would also hold their post open heart patients that were not doing well (and probably shouldn’t have been operated on in the first place) in the ICU for extended periods of time, even after they no longer met ICU criteria. Sometimes they would keep patients on the ventilator (sometimes without sedation) for extended periods of time as well just to keep them in the ICU. After 30 days, they were shipped to a nursing facility– some of them died after several weeks. They were having us keep these patients in the ICU where we could keep them alive but not necessarily make them better and then send them off to die somewhere else when it wouldn’t affect their data. I left that job after a couple months.”
He Didn’t Like Having Time On His Hands
“I was an endoscopy technician for a few years in my early twenties. I worked with a doctor that would book 30+ cases in a day, perform endoscopies in under a minute and colonoscopies in under five. If his schedule had any open blocks, he would go ‘shopping’ around the hospital for more patients to squeeze in. These patients were often over 90-years-old and had varying levels of dementia. He’d convince them or their caregivers that they needed colonoscopies for something as mundane as a change in bowel habits.
I’ve also seen a few examples of downright incompetence and laziness during complicated procedures, and there were a few doctors that were known for throwing tantrums. The ‘shopping’ doctor would throw his desk phone across the room at least once a month. I was 20 years old at the time but I often felt like I was babysitting children.”
Just Trying To Help
“When I was doing paramedic training, I had to get a list of things done to show I was competent in doing them. One was bagging an unconscious patient in the hospital with a bag valve mask. Oddly enough, it was actually a hard one to get.
So anyway, a buddy comes in with a dislocated shoulder and the ER doc gives him propofol to relax his muscles and pop that baby back in. But this medicine, it relaxes all your muscles and can make you actually stop breathing so a respiration tech is there in case that happens. I was there in hopes that happens. Anyway, the doc gives the guy x amount of propofol, he falls asleep, shoulder goes in, and buddy is breathing normally. Then the doc looks at me and asks, ‘You still need that bag valve mask sign off? Give the patient x amount more of propofol.’ Wink”
3 Second Rule?
“I’m not a doctor but was a medical assistant working in a gynecologist’s office. There was a patient scheduled for an IUD insertion. Her insurance company did not pay for the device itself so the patient had to pick it up and pay for it herself prior to the appointment. While the doctor was doing the insertion, it was dropped from her instrument onto the floor.
The doctor just picked it up and continued with the procedure. Afterward, I was told not to say anything. She punctuated the sentence by saying, ‘Do you know how much bacteria is in there already?’ Nothing ever happened to the patient as far as I know but still. I still bow my head in shame for never speaking up.”
Can We Just Get The Whole Dying Thing Out Of The Way?
“Our company makes hospital software. One of the many reports that can be filed is a death certificate. This can only be filed when a patient dies. One Friday, we got a call from the hospital. They asked us to change the software so that the report can be filed before death. When we asked why they said they have a patient who they know will not survive the weekend. They told us his doctor wants to file the report so that he can have a free weekend. The weekend doctor does not know the patient so he wouldn’t know how to file the report.
I’m not sure if it is unethical to file a death certificate before the patient dies, but it was kinda creepy. We changed it so that the patient must be dead when the report is printed, not when it is filed.”
Cancer Treatment Corruption
“I am not a doctor, but I’m in Vietnam and see some serious ethics violations by medical professionals here. I can only tell of secondhand accounts but I know the person this happened to. Corruption runs deep here. One of my friends is a local and was engaged to a man she had been with for about two years. Their relationship came to a sudden halt when her mother got cancer. Cancer did not kill the relationship. The doctor did.
He told the family that the mom would not be treated in time to fight cancer due to the number of patients they had to see and the funds available for taking on such cases since medicine is state-run here. He assured the family, however, that he would treat my friend’s mom if my friend became his girlfriend. They were ‘together’ for about six months while her mom went through chemo. She still died. Imagine telling your SO that you have to break up with him/her because the doctor won’t treat your parent unless you perform favors for him.”
“One time when I was at a teaching hospital, we got a man who had been shot in the ER. He was shot in the arm and claimed to have been mugged. The circumstances, however, seemed to indicate that he was involved in a gang war shooting – this was in Mexico were weapons are illegal. He was a typical Mexican gang member, gang tattoos, shaved head, wife beater, etc. and he was dropped at the hospital door by a bunch of guys that ran away.
So when my teacher didn’t believe his story, she proceeded to put some gloves on and stick her finger into the wound and explain to us student what a shot wound looks like, what you have to take into account when examining one, etc. All of this while moving her finger inside the dude’s arm and making it as painful as possible. She kept asking him the real story and he kept lying so she continued to ‘explain’ to us how to examine the wound.
Once the guy painfully confessed to having been involved in a shooting, the doctor asked for an anesthetic to remove the bullet.
Here in Mexico, all shot wounds or stabbing incidents have to be reported to the police even if they were an accident, that’s why she pushed so hard for the truth, to avoid lying to the police.”
Race Against The Clock
“I briefly worked as a front desk clerk for an ER at a local hospital. The rule was the anyone that came in complaining of chest pains had to be back and on a machine within 10 minutes of arrival. Once I entered their name into the system, a clock started. So, I was told not to enter their name until they had already been taken back to essentially make our numbers look better and make it appear as though they were receiving care within the prescribed 10 minutes.
People complaining of chest pains were typically brought back quickly, just not always within the 10-minute guideline, although they were generally brought back faster than anyone else. This mostly seemed to be just about producing better stats. Keeping it off the system gave them the ability to delay.
MY OPINION: never trust an individual stat, they’re almost always manipulated.”