In 2007 we settled a wrongful death suit that we had brought against the hospital and the doctors. It was a painful process for us, but we felt that we needed an independent assessment of what happened and the legal system provides for this. At every turn in this protracted process, we encountered nothing but respect and compassion from all parties.
Prior to our legal action, we had been discussing with hospital officials the circumstances surrounding Julia's death, and the changes in procedures and practices that they adopted as a response to our tragedy.
For years, we were told that a day rarely went by at the hospital without a reference to Julia or a recollection of her case. Every hospital knows tragedy, but Julia's case was special. Her death inspired and accelerated significant changes, and her case is being used to promote patient safety reforms well beyond our community. ...
We are so grateful that we are able to sponsor these events. We believe that they are important and the venues are well situated to have impact, both for doctors in training and those already in practice.
We’ve been thanked many times by many people for our efforts and we appreciate the sentiment. But, as we’ve said many times, it’s something we feel we must do. And it helps keep us sane.
Topics and Advances in Pediatrics
Another program, the "Julia Berg Lecture," is an endowed lecture featured in each year’s Topics and Advances in Pediatrics conference. This annual session focuses on adolescent mental health.
Through our work with the University of Minnesota Medical School Department of Pediatrics, we have established two programs in Julia’s memory. With each program we hope that doctors in training and in practice will become ever-more conscious of the risks of medical error and sensitive to the unique challenges of adolescent medicine.
Pediatric Grand Rounds
The Julia Berg Memorial Lecture is funded through the Julia Berg Memorial Fund for Patient Safety at the University of Minnesota Foundation. The purpose of the Fund is to support the University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics’ Resident Education Program by providing a source of funds for renowned speakers whose specialty is in patient safety with a focus on communication between families and medical staff or hospital systems.
Doubt by Dan Berg, as published in July 2009 issue of Academic Pediatrics.
Julia Berg Lectures
Julia's bench by Lake Harriet covered in yarn on Yarn Bombing Day 2012
This article was published anonymously due to a confidentiality agreement with the doctors and hospital. Describing the circumstance of Julia's death and the errors that were acknowledged as contributing factors, the article was written in the hope that its publication will contribute to the safety of other children and patients who depend on the wisdom as well as the skill of the doctors who serve them.
For what it’s worth, as a layman and as a father who has replayed countless times the six days before his daughter’s death, here’s what I find to be the common denominator: Everyone involved in Julia’s care gave someone else the benefit of the doubt. The gastroenterologist ceded to the surgeon; our pediatrician to the specialists; the surgeon to the anesthesiologist; the PACU nurse to the 6th floor. We, Julia’s parents, to the whole system.
But, isn’t trust the fundamental building block of collaborative care? How can the system function without an interdependent web of expertise? Don’t you strive for and ultimately depend upon a team of qualified experts? Doctors, technicians, nurses and families who know their children best?
The team attending Julia was experienced and well-qualified. But in this case, with its confusing indicators there was, perhaps, too much trust. Where was the empowered skeptic, or the culture that rewards those who question, question and question again?
There is so much knowledge, so much capacity, so much data. And yet with all of these assets the chances for confusion, miscommunication, and conflicting analysis remain. Maybe they’re enhanced. In a field like no other in its capacity to intervene between life and death, maybe it’s time to reexamine the value of doubt in the diagnostic equation.