Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Devil's Advocate

Thanks to all for comments on the previous post. FWIW even Darling Spouse has weighed in, saying that I don't know all the facts and so I'm getting all upset over Flea for nothing.

I'll grant that consensus seems to be congealing into a general impression that Flea was foolish for blogging his trial as it was happening, and arrogant/cocky for thinking he could get away with it. Some have even gone so far as to imply that this means that Robert Lindeman, the physician (as opposed to Flea the blogger) was also arrogant and cocky, and therefore "got what was coming to him."

Here's a wild and crazy thought, though: since when does arrogance per se constitute medical malpractice?

Don't get me wrong; I think that, by and large, arrogant doctors are lousy doctors. They tend not to communicate well with their patients, so they tend not to be the best diagnosticians (hit TV series notwithstanding.) But I am forced to admit that there are individuals with specialized technical skills that provide tremendous benefit to patients (cough**CT surgeons**cough.) These folks tend to be arrogant as hell and would probably rub anyone -- including most juries -- the wrong way. But do they -- or anyone else -- deserve to have their medical care judged by their interpersonal skills?

Although a doctor's personality, appearance and demeanor on a witness stand are seen as proxies for behavior with patients, I fail to see how actions (or writings) outside the courtroom or exam room have any relevance to the questions that come up in a malpractice trial. I know that's how the world *does* work. My question is, should it? I say no.

Believe me; no one's more surprised than me to find me, of all people, defending arrogant pricks. I suppose I have an unhealthy attraction to that alien concept known as "Justice."

10 Comments:

At Fri Jun 01, 04:42:00 PM, Anonymous RJS said...

"But I am forced to admit that there are individuals with specialized technical skills that provide tremendous benefit to patients (cough**CT surgeons**cough.) These folks tend to be arrogant as hell and would probably rub anyone -- including most juries -- the wrong way. But do they -- or anyone else -- deserve to have their medical care judged by their interpersonal skills?"

ABSOLUT NICHT. (Which is why I defended Flea if he is indeed an arrogant guy in my comments on your other post.)

I hope trial by jury eventually goes the way of the Dodo.

After all, the Twelfth Law states that "A bad idea held by many people for a long time is still a bad idea." does it not? :)

 
At Fri Jun 01, 05:24:00 PM, Blogger Awesome Mom said...

He may have indeed been a bit arrogant to think that he could get away with blogging about his trial but I don't think that the arrogance translated it's self into arrogance at the bedside. I had a chance to listen to him podcasting with the Manic Mommies (one of whom takes her kids to him)and he did not seem the least bit arrogant when he was answering the questions that they had for him. At the very least he would have to be a pretty good faker to hide something like that.

 
At Fri Jun 01, 09:25:00 PM, Blogger Dr. Smak said...

At the risk of splitting hairs, Flea wasn't blogging about his trial. Flea was blogging about his experience of being a physician on trial. He specifically avoided any mention of the case, or the family of the deceased, except in recognition of their loss and pain.

What he did focus on, and I think why his entries on it were so fascinating, was HIS experience with the trial. What it feels like to get a notice of lawsuit in the mail, being coached on being a witness, contemplating what might make one win or lose a case, the anxiety of meeting the jurors, the distaste one feels for the plaintiff's attorney.

I found his posts to be the antithesis of arrogance. Foolhardy, perhaps. But I felt that Flea was humbly laying open his emotions at what was arguably one of the most difficult experiences of his career. Did some of the posts have a hard edge? Yes, but I think that reflected the pain and anxiety that Flea was experiencing.

Posting about the trial in real time may have been poor judgement. And I don't know Flea, perhaps he's an arrogant man. But I object to his communication of this important experience being labeled as arrogance. My hope when he pulled his blog was that he would resume posting after the trial was complete - that seems unlikely now. But I appreciate the insight that I gained from his posts.

May I never need it.

 
At Sat Jun 02, 12:28:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Probably not arrogant, but naive certainly. Particularly in communicating what would normally be priviliged conversations between he and his attorney, and in communicating the texts he was given to prepare with.

If he had simply waited until it was over, this would not be an issue.

The arrogant part of the whole deal may be in thinking he didn't have to tell the people paid to defend him what he was doing.

But who knows, maybe the trial was already going poorly and this was just the straw.

 
At Sat Jun 02, 12:56:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Although a doctor's personality, appearance and demeanor on a witness stand are seen as proxies for behavior with patients, I fail to see how actions (or writings) outside the courtroom or exam room have any relevance to the questions that come up in a malpractice trial. I know that's how the world *does* work. My question is, should it? I say no."

Don't we all utilize the behavior of others to evaluate credibility? And doesn't his credibility matter?

If I write in a blog post that failing to do X in a certain situation is malpractice, and then I get on the stand and say it isn't, is that not relevant? (Not to say that's what happened here, but I'm illustrating the fallacy of your blanket statement).

And, if you are an arrogant person as reflected in your writings and dealings with others, and then get on the stand and act like a church mouse, does that not have some relevance to the credibility of your testimony? Of course it does.

 
At Sat Jun 02, 12:56:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I hope trial by jury eventually goes the way of the Dodo."

Seriously, what kind of an idiots were the founders enshrining that in the Bill of Rights?

 
At Sat Jun 02, 04:10:00 AM, Anonymous beajerry said...

Since he went down a reckless blogging path, I wonder why he didn't keep blogging?
Or will a new blog spring up soon?

 
At Sat Jun 02, 12:36:00 PM, Blogger MedStudentGod (MSG) said...

Arrogant? No. A bit foolish, perhaps. I felt that Dr. Flea was just trying to convey what it feels like to be served and go through a malpractice trial. Personally I learned quite a bit about the toll it takes not including the monetary losses. Dr. Sid Schwab did the same with a few posts about his trial with the one exception being it was not at the time of his court case.

Is it arrogant to write about experiences and frustrations, victories, and to ultimately express oneself with the written word which Flea did so eloquently? If it is then call me arrogant as well. If anything it's just sad that people instantly dubbed this intelligent man as being arrogant based on very little information. I wonder if these were some of the same who would whole-heartedly agree with him on his blog only to turn against him so quickly.

The facts of the case are unknown to us, what is known, to me at least, is that Flea was a tremendous asset to the Pediatric blogging community and is now lost. We shouldn't forget that

 
At Sat Jun 02, 09:40:00 PM, Anonymous drncc said...

Seems to me that as "streetwise" as some of us are in some ways, we're still surprisingly trusting in others. I miss Flea and I wish him the best.

ncc

 
At Sun Jun 03, 12:28:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard from others that the orthopedic surgeon that repaired me was arrogant and not very sympathetic. But my experience was that he is very skilled and dedicated to the well-being of his patients, for which I am forever grateful. I suspect that the complaining patients are ones who, first, won't follow his treatment plan after surgery, saying 'it's too haaaard" but want him to make it all better anyway, and he might be somewhat impatient with the illogic of this. Probably most doctors have to deal with this sort of thing, and have different methods of coping with it. In my opinion we're becoming a nation of eternal adolescents who in the face of difficulty tend to regress to pouty, whiny toddlers.

 

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