Doc’s Gone Wild: Après Ski

“New Jersey Anesthesiologist Revives Patient after 10-hour Surgery without Complications” is a headline you’ll never read.  “New Jersey Anesthesiologist Receives Rave Reviews from Patients Who are Pain Free” is a story no one cares about.

But “Doctor charged in ‘ski rage’ attack on 12-year-old, cops say” or “New Jersey judge hands down strange Valentine’s Day sentence to doctor who attacked boy, 12, at ski resort” are the sort of headlines that the public loves.  Yes, the same public that jams doctors into every news interview, talk show, and nighttime drama possible, loves to see one taken down.  You can even visit The Bad Doctor Database for proof.

We don’t know the facts of the case, and so must trust the legal system and the judge’s sentence.  But would the headline “Insurance Salesman Beats Kid with Ski Pole” have even been published?  The fact that “Doctor” is the buzzword in these sorts of headlines raises more questions.  What does the assailant’s occupation have to do with the story?  Does the societal expectation of higher behavioral standards among certain professions suggest that stiffer penalties might be handed down than were the perp a mere retail merchant or JCAHO inspector?  When I heard the story about the British Airways flight crew being disciplined for running naked through a Singapore hotel, my first question was, “Were they on duty?”  Because if they weren’t – and obviously they weren’t in uniform – why should their job be pertinent? 

I’ve written a few “Docs Gone Wild” pieces over the years, because I think they’re funny incidents involving members of a profession that attracts individuals more inherently off-kilter than the background population (you know I’m right).  And while I’ll keep writing those, it is worth noting the schizophrenic envy in a society that loves to tear down those it builds up. 

“In addition to his anniversary sentence, he was ordered to submit to a thorough psychiatric and personality evaluation, complete an anger management program, perform 200 hours of community service and pay fines close to $1,500.”  Simple enough, right? 

“Regarding the potential impact on Caruther’s medical license,” his attorney said, “We’ll take whatever steps when they arise.”  Uh-oh.  Was he on duty while skiing, or in any way representing his group, his employer, or a hospital where he passes gas?  Why should there be any medical license involvement?  And now every time this physician wants to renew his medical license, he’ll have to check “yes” on the psychiatric evaluation question, and re-explain that time he lost his temper. 

While getting my hair cut the other day, the lady with the scissors pressed me repeatedly on what I do for a living.  I repeatedly deflected all inquiries by stating I work “for a staffing company,” and left it as generic as possible. 

The sad, cautionary fact for those contemplating this line of work is that physicians have neither the same civil rights, expectation of innocence, nor even the baseline good will from society as less popularized tradesmen.  Many docs have to publicly market themselves, and some want to be community leaders, and I wish them all success.  But their respective communities will tear them down the instant they stub their toe.  Stay low, and keep moving.   

Pat Conrad MD

Pat Conrad is a full-time rural ER doc on the Florida Gulf Coast. After serving as a carrier naval flight officer, he graduated from the University of Florida College of Medicine, and the Tallahassee Family Medicine residency program. His commentary has appeared in Medical Economics and at AuthenticMedicine.com . Conrad’s work stresses individual freedom and autonomy as the crucial foundation for medical excellence, is wary of all collective solutions, and recognizes that the vast majority of poisonous snakebites are concurrent with alcohol consumption. 

  8 comments for “Doc’s Gone Wild: Après Ski

  1. Dawn
    July 8, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    I’m a Neuro ICU RN at LeBonheur Hospital. By no means even close to being a MD. But I usually tell people I’m a stay at home mom who home schools. That usually changes the conversation to “what does your husband do?” 😂

  2. Diane Bergmann
    July 8, 2019 at 12:12 am

    This is why there is no such thing as a jury of your peers unless those on the jury have walked in your shoes, done your job. No lay person should ever sit on a the jury for a medical issue trial.

  3. DrWally
    July 7, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    At times I have been a shoe salesman, body repair and one time I was a submarine racer. It depends on the situation and who is asking…

  4. Rick
    July 7, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    Pat, you “work for a staffing company”. I am an “insurance consultant”.
    Curiosity ends there.
    I thought I was the only one who does this! LOL

    • Dave
      July 7, 2019 at 1:42 pm

      I’ve always preferred “applied biochemist,” although working in an ED could just as aptly be described as being a kindergarten teacher!

    • Sir Lance-a-lot
      July 7, 2019 at 1:46 pm

      I usually say, “I work in [the nearby small city].” or “I try to stay out of trouble.”

      When I was a paramedic, is used to say, “I work for the city.”

      Either way, most people take the hint, and I figure they usually assume I’m some sort of a cop.

      I found a long time ago that saying I’m a doctor is an immediate conversation stopper.

      • Pat
        July 7, 2019 at 2:15 pm

        Or an awful conversation amplifier. As a second-year med student, I left the gym pathology lab, and stopped for a haircut on the way home. The woman cutting my hair saw my UF College of Medicine sweatshirt, and while I begged her to stop, pleading that I was only a student, I got a completely unsolicited, horrifyingly detailed GYN history while captive in the chair. Worst haircut of my life in multiple ways.

        • Sir Lance-a-lot
          July 7, 2019 at 4:34 pm

          Indeed.

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