Union of Patients (Part II)


            As for the physician who poisoned me—no physician reported it to the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC).  Not only did they not report it, they covered it up.  It took me two years to figure out that my kidney disease was a result of the medicine the physician had prescribed.  The statute of limitations on malpractice was three years, then.  In the remaining year, I was not able to find a lawyer to take the case.  Without a malpractice settlement, the taxpayers have paid a quarter of a million dollars for my care.  Since then, the New York State Legislature has changed the statute of limitations for filing a malpractice suit:  it is now two and a half years.  You have less time to get your act together, not more.

            Bad physicians are hurting their patients.  Good physicians know it and do not report it.  When patients report it, the official body does nothing.  Consequently, on the rare occasion when a malpractice case goes to trial, the jury is drawn from the 6600 people who filed complaints and were ignored.  They are mad, and they award large settlements.

            If physicians want their malpractice insurance to go down, they should start policing their profession.  Doctor, if you want to put a cap on malpractice settlements, call the OPMC when you see a patient who has been damaged by a physician.  Put civilian investigators and judges on the OPMC.  Extend the statute of limitations.  Will it make the practice of medicine harder for a physician?  Well, let’s just say it will make the practice of medicine nicer for the patient.  Remember the patient?  That’s the person who’s paying the bill.  In what other industry does the consumer pay without having any control over the quality of the product?

            Otherwise, I recommend a Union of Patients.  How do you think the practice of medicine would be changed if the 6600 patients whose complaints were ignored formed a union?  Patients go alone into their physician’s offices and each patient thinks that he or she is the only one who’s had a problem.  How about we set up a website, patient-to-patient, where we can report problems with physicians?

How about we bring the practice of medicine under consumer control?

            Doctor, I don’t expect you to know how to cure me.  It is the human condition.  I will die of something sometime, and you won’t be able to prevent it.  I accept that.

            What I will not accept is your failure to treat me with respect.  I will not accept it—

  • When you keep me sitting in your waiting room for two hours.
  • When I am in crisis and you do not return my phone calls.
  • When you order tests and don’t pick up the results.
  • When the test results are abnormal and you don’t notify me.
  • When I tell you something is wrong and you don’t believe me.
  • When you make a mistake and don’t apologize.
  • When you tell me you’ll do something, then don’t.
  • When you walk into the treatment room without knowing my name.
  • When you interrupt me while I’m talking.

The OPMC is judging the quality of the medicine practiced.  Human beings judge the quality of the humaneness with which it is practiced.

            I have some suggestions to reduce the size of medical malpractice settlements.

  • Physicians must publicly post the names and addresses of their mothers so patients can file complaints with them.
  • Once a week, each physician must dine in a patient’s home—and be on time for dinner.  Friends don’t sue their friends.
  • No physician can vacation outside the country without approval by a majority of his patients.
  • Every Tuesday, from noon till 3:30 p.m., each physician must scrub his own office.
  • The priest, pastor, imam or rabbi of the physician’s choice must annually certify how many hours the physician has spent in community worship.
  • Any physician wishing to build an in-ground swimming pool for himself must also build one for the inner city kids.
  • No physician who has had less than six hours of uninterrupted sleep the previous night may report for work.
  • All parking spaces within one block of the physician’s office will be reserved for patients; the physician will park two blocks away.

What I propose is that physicians return to life in the community.  The community will then stop punishing them.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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6 Responses to Union of Patients (Part II)

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I just found this blog? which is of much interest to me. I am one of those patients who was injured by a physician in 2006. I filed a complaint with the OMPC and to this day I have only received letters telling me that they do not believe this doctor committed any wrongdoing. I would like to find some type of resource where I can continue to fight with the legal system and the DOH to change their present guidelines which only proved to work for physicians and not patients.
    I’m leaving this reply hoping there is someone out there who may be able to shed some light into this. Any response is appreciated.
    Thank you,

    • annecwoodlen says:

      I’m out here, Elizabeth, and know your pain. A physician who’d never laid eyes on me before made a decision that put me on life support–and the OPMC investigated me, not the doctor, then found the doctor innocent of all charges. In Onondaga County, one year about 8000 complaints were filed; only about 400 were upheld. Physicians are not serving the people; they are serving themselves. There is no “light to be shed”; you understand exactly what the situation is. How do we change it? The only thing I can imagine would be a Union of Patients. Massive, organized pressure from dissatisfied customers. Do you have other ideas?

      • Elie says:

        Thank you for your response Ann, it is frustrating indeed, even some lawyers are not willing to get involved unless is a case of death, or worse, leaving a patient completely dependent of care 24/7. They also admit that OPMC is a broken system which can only translate to “corrupted” I found this campaign called “Sorry Works”, which to me, if it is successful would only make matters worse because legally the hospitals will have a green light to cover up for their mistakes. Of course this is exactly was is happening now the difference is that they can do it openly with no fear of consequences. I do not have any ideas at this time, but be assured that I will continue to research and read everything about the medical system and learn what would be the best way to bring awareness to the public. Your idea has given me initiative to start thinking.

      • annecwoodlen says:

        Elie, the reason lawyers won’t get involved except in very severe cases is because that’s where the big money is. I had a lawyer refuse my case because, he said, it would only settle “for about $70,000 and, frankly, we’re looking for a windfall”–not justice; a windfall.

        The first problem with the “Sorry Works” website is that it is written in 9-point type. Standard is 12-point; 9-point is so small that it’s unreadable. I gave up after a couple paragraphs, so can’t comment on it. However, what I remember from someplace else is that it is a program that’s trying to get people working in medicine to apologize for their mistakes. I don’t see how you figure this means they get to cover up their mistakes. Please explain.

      • Elie says:

        I actually tried to send you a reply yesterday but for some reason it did not go through and my whole response was deleted. I am doing my best to recollec. I have not done any serious research on the “Sorry Works” website but reading some of the issues they are trying to bring about is what has always been happening anyway. There is nothing new, to me this is just a way to make things “acceptable” and put all responsibility back on the patient when things go wrong. The only authority that can make a difference on how doctors treat their patients is OMPC they need to take complaints with merit seriously yet not even lawyers understand why they select a doctor over another one or what guidelines they use to measure what constitutes malpractice over misconduct. If we were living in a perfect world where doctors had integrity, a sense of responsibility, but most of all, honesty there may not be so many people hurt by their incompetence and greediness. I acknowledge that there are some good doctors who really care for the best interest of the patient, and in most cases they put everything they know into providing the best care, but the reality is that the majority are not. When things go wrong doctors hate to take responsibility because it will tarnish their reputation and will only end in getting fewer patients. We can’t afford to let a doctor get away with a mistake, not even one.
        It takes only one time to ruin someone’s life and it is not ethical to come up with a campaign that will excuse doctors up to 3 times before they are “required” to report this behavior to risk management and then risk management will have the opportunity to report this to the OPMC on a voluntary basis. My injury, as many others, are a result of this misguided program, I did not have the opportunity to make an informed conscious decision when I looked up this doctor’s profile on the OPMC website. I even paid to get a private medical history and every report came back clean, perfect, no disciplinary actions, no privilege restriction. It was not until after my surgery when I found out he had already settled 2 cases and has 2 more pending in court. How can it be possible that this doctor has been allowed to continue performing the same type of surgeries that he is so incompetent of doing. Still when I sent my complaint the first time the response I got was that there was not sufficient evidence to charge him with professional misconduct. The second complaint I sent a year or so later I included the cases, and the article I found out where it said that his privileges had been suspended and he was actually fired from the hospital for the same reasons I claimed in my complaint, yet the second response came back within days saying that according to their standards he still was not considered to have been committed professional misconduct. Everything to me is a joke, lawyers, judges, doctors they are all experts in playing the system. In the meantime, my life has been on hold for the past 7 years, going through other surgeries, countless of consultations, I lost my job, my marriage, my only child, until finally my symptoms, anger and frustration were seeing as, “mental problems”. I have become dependent on 6 psychiatric drugs to be able to get through another day. The quality of my life is gone, I spend my days sleeping, I feel no energy to even get out of bed because this only makes my situation to painful to handle. That is why I cannot believe that this program “Sorry Works” will help patients. Once a body has been damaged no amount of “Sorry” can bring back normal functions. I have decided to keep gathering up evidence and keep on sending letters to OPMC, we all respond to someone else on top, there have to be something that can be done. Lawyers should know that sometimes is not just about money, an injury that is a result of carelessness even if it is minor should be taken as a warning because the next patient may not be so lucky.

      • annecwoodlen says:

        Your closing sentence is absolutely spot-on. The physician who damaged me had previously damaged many others, but no one ever filed a complaint against her. If each person had filed a complaint, then a file would have been built up that finally would have put her out of business.

        My main concern is for you. What have you done to heal yourself? Taking drugs is not healing. In 2001 I stopped taking all psychiatric medication. Thereafter, I got my brain working again. I got really, really angry about what had happened to me, and then I got to work to make changes. I became an effective activist and that has brought me much satisfaction. I have figured out some remarkably creative ways to insitute change, and I have developed a useful philosophy about what and how I can change the system.

        You, on the other hand, are spending your days sleeping. You have chosen to take drugs–all prescribed by one of the doctors you despise.

        Do you want to fix your life, or sleep through it? Let me know.

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