I had a great morning. I arrived excited and ready to attack the day. This was the email in my in-box:
Interested In: You obviously do not have a clue re the mind of a doctor. We are ethical, moral and exist to help patients. You are immoral, unethical, and whores to the dollar. I hope your family needs a doctor and one is not there because vermin like you have driven them away.
Let’s start with the petty. We have a guy whose email address is his job as an emergency room doctor. Proves nothing. But it does make you wonder if Dr. Hossfeld is just a little too excited about being Mr. Doctor. People like that scare me. I’m not a fan of summarizing my life in an email address or a bumper sticker. If I did, it would have the names of my family and friends on it and that would be too long to type.
Let’s move on from the petty to the substantive because I certainly could be reading too much into an email address. We have four sentences, so let’s break them down and over analyze them to get ready for the NFL pre-game shows on Sunday. We will leave out the “hysterical laughter at every attempt at a joke from everyone in the studio” part:
“You obviously do not have a clue re the mind of a doctor.”
I think I have a pretty good feel for the mind of a doctor. This might be outlandish and heresy to you, Dr. Hossfeld, but I’m assuming it is similar to the mind of lawyers, plumbers, farmers, and Indian chiefs. You have some that are really good, decent people whose primary focus is their patients, their clients, the people who are eating their food, and the well being of the tribe. And you have some folks that are pretty self absorbed and focus only on themselves. I don’t think any one profession has better people than any other profession. I’ve got three kids and I’d like them all to be doctors. But if they become plumbers, I won’t think they are any more or less righteous or decent.
“We are ethical, moral and exist to help patients
All of you? Really? Funny, I was looking at the highest-paid professions in the United States and the highest salaries all go to doctors. Dr. Andrew Weil said last night on Larry King that the problem in health care is doctors going around chasing money and running medical practices like a business.
You know what? I think Dr. Weil is wrong about this. I think most doctors put their patients first but also want to earn a handsome salary in the process. My opinion is that most doctors have earned exactly that. But what is your salary, Dr. Hossfeld? If I had the energy, I would get on-line and find out what you paid for your house. But let me guess: it is nice. Why not sell the McMansion and give it to the neediest patients for whom you “exist?”
You are immoral, unethical, and whores to the dollar.”
Is it the ecumenical “you” or do you mean me personally? I hate to drag anyone else into this, but I hope you mean medical malpractice lawyers or personal injury lawyers and not just me. Wait, I just noticed you say “whores” as opposed to “whore.” You must mean all medical malpractice lawyers. Inexplicably, this realization brightens up my day a bit. I’m easy.
“I hope your family needs a doctor and one is not there because vermin like you have driven them away.”
Doctor, I’ve got a sweet wife and three wonderful kids under four-years-old. They have nothing to do with medical malpractice law or anything else. You wish ill on them because of my political views on medical malpractice lawsuits? Are you kidding me? I would not wish that on my worst enemy (my high school baseball coach gets that nod, but that is a subject for a different day). But the disconnect between a doctor who exists for his patients and someone who would wish ill on a person’s children… let’s just move on and pretend that you really don’t mean it.
I thought I would take a crazy shot in the dark and Google “George Hossfeld” and “medical malpractice.” Turns out, Dr. Hossfeld has been the subject of a medical malpractice lawsuit that caused him “six days of humiliation and accusations.” What were the chances?
Dr. Hossfeld wrote about this experience, calling it “criminal” to be made the subject of a malpractice trial with everyday people – like you and me – on the jury as opposed to fellow doctors. How dare non-doctors attempt to weigh the evidence – which included the testimony of a fellow doctor who said he committed malpractice – and think they could render an opinion on Dr. Hossfeld? “No one should have the right to judge our performance except ourselves,” he writes.
I wonder if Dr. Hossfeld applies this “only we judge us” rule to lawyers, plumbers, farmers, and Indian chiefs. I’m guessing only doctors have earned this special privilege, this end-run around the law the rest of us have been following for the last 400 years.
I’ve written before about the arrogance in which most of us hold our opinions on the issues of our day. On medical malpractice, I feel very strongly in the right to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit before a jury when someone believes – supported by another medical doctor – that a serious injury or death has resulted from negligent medical care. But I also know that there are people smarter than I am who disagree with me. So if I’m blessed to go to Heaven one day and God tells me that medical malpractice lawsuits were not efficacious to overall patient health and justice (note: this probably won’t be my first question), I’ll be surprised but not shocked. But I would be shocked if God told me that this email from George Hossfeld was anything other than mean spirited and just plain wrong.