Medical Error Interviews

Melissa Shiff: Her life intersects with wife murdering surgeon, medical error and human rights

October 12, 2020

When Melissa Shiff had surgery on a cyst in her back, the surgeon nicked her spinal fluid canal causing it to leak spinal fluid. This medical error would lead to more errors and medical harm for Melissa. 

As Melissa wrote to me after the interview: “I get internal tremors, non epileptic seizures, slurred speech, sometimes I lose the ability to move my limbs and need to be carried and of course can barely stand or walk.

The health system proved useless and essentially abandoned Melissa to suffer without medical care.

As a result of her own research and determination, Melissa eventually got a correct diagnosis, one that could be treated with surgery -- but then she was faced with a health care system ignorant about the disease and the only qualified surgeon in prison for murdering his wife.

But Melissa is not one to give up easily -- listen to find out how Melissa is working hard - and horizontally from her bed - to get the surgery she needs to have any hope of leading a normal vertical life.


Swedish Study:


Connect with Melissa Shiff:


Twitter: @MelissaShiff



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Be my Guest

I am always looking for guests to share their medical error experiences so we help bring awareness and make patients safer.

If you are a survivor, a victim’s surviving family member, a health care worker, advocate, researcher or policy maker and you would like to share your experiences, please send me an email with a brief description: 

Need a Counsellor?

Like me, many of my clients at Remedies Counseling have experienced the often devastating effects of medical error.

If you need a counsellor for your experience with medical error, or living with a chronic illness(es), I offer online video counseling appointments.

**For my health and life balance, I limit my number of counseling clients.** 

Email me to learn more or book an appointment:

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Scott Simpson

Counsellor + Patient Advocate + (former) Triathlete

I am a counsellor, patient advocate, and - before I became sick and disabled - a passionate triathlete. Work hard. Train hard. Rest hard.

I have been living with HIV since 1998. I was the first person living with HIV to compete at the triathlon world championships.

Thanks to research and access to medications, HIV is not a problem in my life.

I have been living with ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) since 2012, and thanks in part to medical error, it is a big problem in my life.

Counseling / Research

I first became aware of the ubiquitousness of medical error during a decade of community based research working with the HIV Prevention Lab at Ryerson University, where I co-authored two research papers on a counseling intervention for people living with HIV, here and here

Patient participants would often report varying degrees of medical neglect, error and harms as part of their counseling sessions.

Patient Advocacy

I am co-founder of the ME patient advocacy non-profit Millions Missing Canada, and on the Executive Committee of the Interdisciplinary Canadian Collaborative Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Research Network.

I am also a patient advisor for Health Quality Ontario’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, and member of Patients for Patient Safety Canada.

Medical Error Interviews podcast and vidcast emerged to give voice to victims, witnesses and participants in this hidden epidemic so we can create change toward a safer health care system.

My golden retriever Gladys is a constant source of love and joy. I hope to be well enough again one day to race triathlons again. Or even shovel the snow off the sidewalk.


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