Facebook Complaint Leads Israeli Hospital to Probe Treatment of Patient Who Died

Son of deceased patient describes Sheba Medical Center's nurses as staffers as 'arrogant, disrespectful and condescending,' says top doctor was unresponsive to both patient and family.

The Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer has decided to investigate the circumstances leading up to the death of a patient, after a Facebook posting by the man's son criticized the hospital's treatment in his father's final days.

Yoram Segev of Mevassert Zion, 69, an attorney and national secretary of the Histadrut labor federation's Union of Jurists, died on the eve of Yom Kippur, less than two weeks after he was hospitalized for a bone marrow transplant. A father of four and grandfather of six, Segev was diagnosed with lymphoma in May 2011. He was initially treated at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

At the advice of his Shaare Zedek physicians after a few months in remission, Segev decided on a bone marrow transplant to prevent the cancer from returning. Two weeks prior to his death, he was admitted to Sheba Medical Center.  Segev chose Sheba because of its excellent reputation for bone transplants, his son Yoav, an employee at Haaretz, wrote in a note posted on Facebook following his father's death:

“He selected this hospital for the good reputation of its Bone Marrow Transplantation Department and went into the procedure in optimal health and on the recommendation of his doctors, who believed that he was absolutely fit to endure this aggressive procedure,” wrote the younger Segev. “But 10 days after his admission, his health deteriorated suddenly and unexpectedly and he died.”
In the final days of Yoram Segev's life, his family was increasingly dismayed with the humiliating way he was treated by the hospital staff, which his son Yoav described on Facebook as “arrogant, disrespectful, and condescending.”

"When my father complained of excruciating abdominal pain to the male nurse in the department, the nurse dismissed him with the wave of a hand and ordered him to stop complaining and whining," Yoav Segev wrote. "In another incident he asked a female nurse how long he will have to be with an uncomfortable oxygen mask and was given the condescending reply: 'Why, are you in a hurry? Do you want to go outside for a walk?'"

The senior physician on the case treated him no better. “The senior doctor, who was principally in charge of my father's treatment, never spoke to my mother nor did he disclose the severity of his condition,” wrote the younger Segev. “He did not update her (or consult with her) about the medical procedures he was considering and the possible consequences of each one of them. When my family approached the doctors with questions, both at the start and during the treatment, in order to alert the staff of potential complications which my father experienced at Shaare Zedek (after he was diagnosed), the doctors ignored them and treated my father according to protocol without explaining how they intended to adapt the treatment to suit my father's specific condition.

“Every department in a hospital is filled with people who are, first and foremost, individuals with unique worlds, including families, and only afterwards patients. They should, therefore, be treated accordingly: professionally, individually and with compassion and understanding towards them and their families. This is exactly the treatment I saw my father receive when he was hospitalized in Shaare Zedek hospital a year and a half ago,” the son wrote.

“The doctors at Sheba Medical Center will certainly answer my questions one way or another, explain their conduct and elaborate on how they did everything in their power to help my father. Even if it becomes clear they are 'professionally covered',  they were not human and they were not humane,” he wrote.

Yoav Segev's criticism of the Sheba Medical Center was shared by hundreds on Facebook, and may possibly lead to an organized public protest against the degrading manner of hospital medical staffs toward their patients.

In response to suggestions that the treatment of patients could be attributed to the heavy workload of the medical staff, the younger Segev said: “There is no doubt that such pressures exist, but doctors vow to provide professional and sensitive treatment, and if they cannot stand by this promise as such, perhaps they should reconsider whether they are fit for the profession.”

In recent months, Facebook has become the major forum for criticism of hospitals, raising concern in hospital administrations. Many institutions  have assigned staff to monitor the social networks and to deal immediately with  complaints made by patients on the Internet.

“We were surprised by the number of responses, and their intensity,” Yoav Segev said. “The fact that so many people in this country have open wounds from their encounters with the health system should be seen as a warning to those who run the system on such a slippery slope.”

An investigation into Yoram Segev's treatment by the Sheba Medical Center administration is due to start soon. At a meeting scheduled with Prof. Rafi Walden, a Sheba deputy director, the family will demand explanations of medical procedures and the disparaging behavior of the hospital staff.

In response to criticism, a senior hospital staffer said, “We must remember that this is a special ward, where many lives are saved.”

The hospital administration responded: “In this new era of communications, where every citizen is essentially turned into a journalist just by posting something on Facebook, all hospitals are presented with challenges they never had to deal with before.

"We favor involvement, participation and full transparency. But it is up to all of us – both the central media outlets and those with reputations – to demonstrate professionalism and responsibility, to set limits and to act in accordance with acceptable journalistic standards, not based on the number of 'Likes' received on the Web.

“Excessive reliance on posts like these, which increase constantly, is an atrocious injustice to the angels in white across the country. As with every issue brought before us, this complaint will be dealt with by the hospital administration and the department staff, and a meeting will be held in the coming days to hear the family's side,” the administration said.