Is medical care infallible? Can it ever be infallible?

In my novel Ten Days, Anna was in a bind. Her baby was sick and she needed the health care professional s to keep him alive, to make him better.  She wanted to believe—completely believe—that medicine is infallible, that the doctors, without a doubt, would treat Eddie in the right way so he could return to the healthy, delightful six month old he was earlier.

There was a chink in her belief, though.  Her husband was a doctor and she knew he made mistakes. He let Chris wander out of sight, too far for a three year old; he let the stinky dish rag molder in the corner of the sink; he forgot her  birthday. And, worst of all, he had called it very wrong the night Eddie became sick.

So, would Eddie’s doctors get it wrong?  She had no way to judge their medical judgment. She couldn’t know if he was on the correct antibiotic, if he really needed the anti-seizure drugs or the endotracheal tube, if his ventilator settings were optimal, if he needed the ventilator at all.  How could she trust them, at least regarding Eddie’s treatment?  How could she not?

But, what if her belief in the infallibility of Eddie’s medical care was misplaced? What could be the consequences? He might die or be brain-damaged. He might become one of those unfortunate little creatures who  can’t walk, or talk, or show their mothers how much they love them.

In the end, it all came down to letting go of distrust. When she drove through an intersection, with the green light shining her direction and her beloved children strapped into their car seats, she had to trust that the cross traffic would obey the red light and stop.  She had to believe it at every green light she encountered. She had to trust the furnace repair guy to hook up the gas line correctly, to trust the airline pilots to get her to the next airport safely, to trust the meat processor to keep E. coli 0157:H7 out of the hamburger she served for dinner, to trust her husband to  come home when he finished work and  to love her forever.

Indeed, with Eddie in the ICU, with her world completely out of control, she had to believe in the infallibility of the doctors.