“Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self- destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.” – O’Brien, from “1984”
For some of you that have been reading my stuff over the years, this may seem repetitive. If so, good! It needs to be screamed again, and again, to really sink in. If you are a medical student, or even entertaining the idea of entering this self-destructive profession, then listen up, and take heed, and open your eyes.
While I did not cross-reference or double-source it, this horror story rings very true. It is about a physician who was targeted by an isolated, unsubstantiated complaint, which led to her hostile interrogation, and mandatory referral to an out-of-town recovery center for in-patient evaluation. There was no right to appeal, there was no clinical diagnosis given, and this “physician’s health program” became part of a chain of events that ended in this physician’s death by suicide.
The way this story is written is indeed wide open for interpretation. The final triggers, last days, and even method of suicide are not disclosed. The author does not address whether his wife had any history of substance abuse or other mental illness, which would have been very relevant. In fact, I thought this story read flimsy and vague in a number of areas. So why do I buy it?
I’ve heard this story before. In 1993, my second-year med school class was treated to a lecture by a local pediatrician over very high regard, one to whom the local medical community all sent their children. One afternoon at his office, he had a visit from state agents informing him that they had received an anonymous complaint against him regarding illicit substance abuse, and that based on that alone, he would have to close his office and submit to an in-patient evaluation for up to five weeks if he wished to keep his medical license. The pediatrician immediately called his lawyer, and was able to keep his office open. After several weeks of fighting with the state and several thousands of dollars out of his own pocket, it was discovered that the complaint came from a previous employee that he had fired for embezzlement, who had threatened upon termination to get revenge. It was later discovered that she called the Board of Medicine from the courthouse where she was about to be sentenced. This story was told from the horse’s mouth, warning us all about the way the bureaucracy actually views us.
So while I think our featured story leaves something to be desired, I am not being pulled blindly into passing on an emotional tug from one sad widower. The public has been trained by the government, trial lawyers, and popular media into believing that physicians are not to be trusted, a state from which I see no recovery. If you are in this profession, you are a target and not presumed to have the same civil liberties as those who would accuse you, anonymously or otherwise, on the basis of no evidence. If you are called into any sort of “recovery program” evaluation, the decision has already been made, the diagnosis already determined in the minds of your inquisitors. Any of us in such straits, even on threat of license forfeiture, should immediately clam up, and refuse to speak without a lawyer present. Our society for all its blather about “freedom” does not extend this to its physicians, as it proves daily. Today’s physicians cannot trust patients, colleagues, hospitals, or state officials. A career in medicine, I think, means a life of earned paranoia.
And if you are a medical student or in pre-med, I urge you, for your own health, stop, and try to think of another path. These are sad, scary days.