Cheer Up, You’re Still Going to Die

A man, diagnosed with HIV in 1996, discovers it was an error. Relieved? Happy? Thrilled with his reprieve? What are you thinking?

Earlier this month, Malone, 59, was summoned to his doctor’s office. He listened as the doctor delivered the stunning news: He is HIV negative. The doctor acknowledged the error, writing in a letter dated Aug. 4: “As his primary care provider, I take full responsibility.”

“He told me, ‘We made a very big mistake. We did not do our job,’ ” said Malone, who is gay and has lost friends to AIDS. “I said, ‘You mean to tell me that all you have to say is you are sorry? Sorry that I lived for all this time believing I was going to die?’ “

How about “Sorry” and “You can keep the free parting gifts” which included:

His rent was paid in part by a county health program. Project Open Hand delivered free meals. A nurse visited him at home every two weeks.

Undoubtedly, he’s more relieved than the story presents, but then the article goes into a riff about:

His misdiagnosis is rare but undisputed and shows the far-reaching damage wrought by medical mistakes and the potential for flaws in burdened health care systems.

Who’s responsible? Well, since Malone’s a vet, it’s an example of government efficiency in health care:

Officials at the Oakland Department of Veterans Affairs’ outpatient clinic where he was treated admit the mistake and have launched an investigation into what went wrong and how the error was perpetuated year after year. VA officials were taken by surprise by the Aug. 4 letter in which the doctor accepted blame and admitted the error. Malone’s physician, Dr. Richard Karp, was not available to comment as the case is under investigation.

Karen Pridmore, a spokeswoman for VA’s Northern California Health Care System, which has eight clinics and a medical center and serves more than 65, 000 patients, said Malone had arrived at the clinic in 1996 with lab results from an outside testing firm in Southern California. Those results showed he was HIV positive. The VA did its own confirmatory HIV test on Malone and found he was negative.

Will this albeit anecdotal evidence silence calls for socialized medicine, which I don’t doubt the San Francisco Chronicle supports?

Of course not. Undoubtedly, they would have the rest of the government do it better, by….Well….Erm….

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