“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.