You Ain’t Right (and Neither Am I) by Pat Conrad MD


Hmm, tough story. If you don’t follow the link, the short version: “A Seattle doctor has been suspended amid accusations he sexted during surgery — one time sending 45 dirty messages during a single operation, officials said”, citing “lack of focus” and allegedly putting patients at risk while he worked as an anesthesiologist during surgeries, including cesarean deliveries, labor epidurals, an appendectomy and more, according to a Washington state medical board’s statement of charges. “I’m hella busy with C sections,” one text message read, according to the statement.”

On the one hand, I really do feel sorry for this obviously screwed-up, no-boundaries gas passer. And there’s no way to excuse his behavior. On the other hand, it’s funny (can you administer anesthesia one-handed? Whoops, I did NOT say that!). For all the talk I hear and read from mainstream sources about how physicians are respected, I just don’t see it. I think doctors are by and large targets, with most people spring-loaded to jump on them about any slight or perceived infraction, on the strength of real, egregious, and relatively rare occurrences. This guy really didn’t help matters.

When I taught first year med students, one of the lessons I tried to impart was that doctors “ain’t right.” That means me, and that means you. This isn’t self-loathing, its just self-honesty. For crying out loud, we have all cut up dead bodies. We have all done the most intimate possible exams on both genders, heard countless stories in private that any decent person would take to the grave, and eaten lunch repeatedly amidst a maelstrom of pus, feces, blood, awful smells, and awful sounds, while still wondering what was for dessert. (I knew one classmate who toured his little kids through the gross anatomy lab during the abdomen/pelvic section, while there were hemi-sected bottom halves hanging off racks in a scene that would otherwise look like some terrifying torture chamber. That was just $*&^#’d up). We carpool with death and are never allowed to forget that the clock is ticking.

And the great majority of us manage to do a very good job year after year without succumbing to substance abuse, sexual misbehavior, Medicare/Medicaid fraud, depression/suicide, or terminal grouchiness. But the risk is there. I think back to a recent topic on this site dealing with physician suicide rates, and recall a colleague in our small town ER that blew his brains out one night in the back yard. All of us need hobbies and exercise, and some of us need shrinks and twelve-step programs. I don’t want to unduly dump on this latest miscreant, but get ready for another round of government and lapdog agencies propagating all sorts of guidelines, surveys, and mandatory CME’s, to be paid for by the would-be sext’r, on the grounds of protecting the public. We tiptoe daily through a minefield of our own choosing, and often of our own making. So DO make all the jokes you can, and make sure some of them are directed at you. And hey…let’s be careful out there.

54560cookie-checkYou Ain’t Right (and Neither Am I) by Pat Conrad MD