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Sympathy Shouldn't Imply Guilt

April 02, 1995

One key issue that both Sandra M. Gilbert ("Wrongful Death: A Memoir," Jan. 29) and readers' follow-up letters (March 5) failed to address was the lack of information she was given about her husband's status following surgery. During anxious hours in the waiting room, no one told her that there had been complications, that it seemed that he was hemorrhaging, that he was receiving transfusions, that efforts were being made to save him. And she was falsely reassured and encouraged to go to dinner.

It's also unfortunate that no expression of sorrow was made to the family. You'd think that the doctors involved would have said something like "it was terribly sad that this happened," but health-care providers are told not to express sorrow because that might imply guilt and culpability.

I am a registered nurse; yet one of my personal phobias is that my own providers will be less than forthcoming with me, that they might fail me not by an act of commission but by one of omission. It's my body and my life, and I want all the information I can get. Gilbert's sad experience illustrates my fears.

Debora Wilson

Long Beach

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