On-screen doc shocks man with death news

Kaiser Permanente Medical Center

Kaiser Permanente Medical Center

A septuagenarian Californian learned of his impending death through a video link, outraging his family, which protested the dehumanized and robotic way in which the news was delivered.

Ms Wilharm said when Mr Quintana's wife complained a nurse told her it was the centre's "policy", but Michelle Gaskill-Hames, senior vice-president of Kaiser Permanente Greater Southern Alameda County, said in a statement the policy was to have a nurse or doctor in the room when remote consultations took place. The family knew he was dying of chronic lung disease.

Mr Ernest Quintana received the news last Monday at a hospital in Fremont, California, when a doctor appeared on screen in a video call and told him. After being transferred to the intensive care unit, a robot machine came rolling into Quintana's room that showed a video from the doctor that informed him he would likely die within a few days. She says it did not replace previous conversations with patients and family members. "Unfortunately, there's nothing we can treat very effectively", he said, according to a video recording that Wilharm shot on her cellphone.

Ms Wilharm, 33, figured the visit was routine.

"We use video technology as an appropriate enhancement to the care team, and a way to bring additional consultative expertise to the bedside", she wrote.

Wilharm said she had no idea who the doctor was or where he was located.

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Wilharm says getting the news from a screen was frightful for her and her grandfather, she also said the hospital should have had more dignity and compassion.

Mr Quintana is said to have died on Tuesday, two days after he was admitted to hospital.

That said, Gaskill-Hames says that they will use this situation as an opportunity to improve patients' experience with telemedicine. "I said, 'Do you want the morphine?' He looked at me like, 'What choice do I have?'" When the family returned to the hospital, they were furious that Quintana was told via video conference that he did not have long to live.

"It does not, and did not, replace ongoing in-person evaluations and conversations with a patient and family members", the center said.

"The nurse came around and said the doctor was going to make rounds and I thought 'OK, no big deal; I'm here, '" said Wilharm. "It felt like someone took the air out of me", she said.

"That Robot Dr may be ok for some situations but not to tell a man he is going to die".

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