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Grief and Litigation

Insights on Grief

Grief and Litigation

There is a careful balance between prolonging your grief along with the opportunity to seek litigation against what is perceived as a negligent action.  During the Anger stage of grief, it is easy to let bottled up emotion influence your judgement to hold someone accountable for your loved one’s death.  There is a careful balance here and you should be cognizant if you are using anger to punish someone for your suppressed emotions or if you have a valid argument.  I will use 2 examples of what I mean. 

Three months before my mother went into a nursing home, she was admitted to the hospital.  During her hospital stay she was diagnosed as having cancer again.  Her metastatic breast cancer came out of remission in the form of a single lesion on her spine.  The doctors told me that my mother could still live a long time because her cancer would be slow growing.   The doctors were clearly wrong because my mother died less than 3 months later with more than 12 additional cancer lesions on her spine.  During my anger phase, I was challenged with a dilemma.  The dilemma was to seek or not to seek litigation against the doctors and facility that gave me wrong information.  I was given very good counsel when faced with this dilemma.  My mother’s health had been in a constant decline over the last several years.  Would she have lived longer if she had a proper diagnosis and aggressive treatment?  The answer is probably no.  If I had sought litigation, I would have prolonged the grieving process for myself and many others.  Thus, I decided not to pursue litigation.  I ultimately honored my mother’s wishes by not artificially prolonging her life, thus causing her to suffer.

I recently had the pleasure of sharing someone else’s journey through grief.  It involved a loving husband losing his wife.  They were a young couple with 2 young children.  The wife entered the hospital with a headache to never leave again.  Without getting into too much detail, there were a series of errors on the part of the doctors and the facility.  The grieving husband was faced with a loss of income, emotional support for their children and a future life together.  In this situation, he was also faced with a dilemma.  The dilemma was clear negligence on the part of the healthcare providers.  His decision to pursue litigation also prolonged his journey through grief as he was waiting for cases to be settled.  His decision to seek litigation was based mainly on the loss of income and support for their children.  Arguably, he made the right decision because it was based on supporting his children and not on his anger.

In either of these situations, there is no right or wrong answer.  I do know that seeking litigation adds a new dynamic and may result in prolonging the grieving process.     

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