December 12, 2004

Military Medical Stupidity

Greetings. While our young (and thanks to inane and in some cases underhanded Ready Reserve call-ups, many not so young) soldiers and marines are being ground up in Iraq, our leaders claim that -- if nothing else -- the wounded are getting the best in medical care. Given that the rate of major limb amputations is reportedly running double that of previous wars, this is what you'd expect to hear them say.

But here's a little story that got my attention. In the midst of the tragic stream of lost arms and legs, and families screaming bloody murder trying to get the treatments that were promised for severely disabled casualities who are now back in the States, it's a comparatively small matter. But it's the sort of thing that sticks in your mind.

A 19-year-old Marine was injured during a fire fight in Iraq and had a mangled hand. Doctors prepared to cut off his wedding ring to work on saving the finger. The Marine insisted he wanted to keep the ring and requested to sacrifice the finger instead. Amazingly, military doctors went along with his request, and cut off his finger. In the confusion that followed, the ring was lost anyway.

That a kid injured in battle might make such a "romantic" request is perhaps understandable. That the doctors in charge of his case would accede to such a request is unbelievable, even under the circumstances. Civilian doctors have been charged with malpractice for less. What the military doctors should have done is say, "Marine, we're making the medical decisions here. You need that finger more than that ring."

What bothers me most about this story isn't so much the particular incident. It's the nagging feeling that this may represent a broader and more serious pattern of poor judgment among those treating our troops for far more serious injuries. I hope that is not the case.


Posted by Lauren at December 12, 2004 09:54 AM | Permalink
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