Dr Phil Joins the Mob, Lies, and Engages in Electronic Lynching

Dr. Phil McGraw, who I frankly (and perhaps naively-but come on, he has Oprah’s, and her machine’s, backing) expected more from, and whose arrogance and disregard for the facts apparently knows no limits, went even further. He and his producers, to join the fray (or perhaps more accurately to not be left out) put on a show in which three “disgruntled” former patients of mine told their stories.

Phil stepped way over the line in a number of ways. Number one, He misled his audience as to the truth. He produced an envelope (from which he never presented the contents) suggesting that he had gotten clearance from these patients in order for me to be present on his show. That was a lie and makes Phil a self-deluded arrogant douche. My attorney, Michael Payne, had requested copies of the so-called releases prior to the show on a number of occasions and had still yet to receive them.

In our private telephone conversations (Phil called me), Phil had offered “Come on Dr. Adams, we both know that all it takes is one line saying these women allow you to talk about their case.” My attorneys thought otherwise. They believed the details should be spelled out beforehand, so there is no problems afterwards.

Their argument: if that were true, that one line made it okay to discuss their cases, then why is it that the network, the legal department at Harpo Productions, CBS/Paramount, and his show, have people sign releases that are one to two pages long? Why is it that he, as a medical professional, could not see the medico-legal ramifications of such a document when one of his “guests” says “Oh…I didn’t mean that, I meant he could talk about something else…I thought he was going to talk about the surgery not that I bounced a check and didn’t return to his office for my follow-up appointment because of it”.

Number two, Dr. Phil stated that I had consented to come on his show, but nothing was further from the truth. I had told Phil McGraw and his assistant that I was not doing any shows. That, at the very least, it was inappropriate for me to do them. If I had consented to go on the show, why was a personal call from Phil McGraw necessary? Why would he offer his private cell phone number as a “false act” of friendship? I never consented to go on his show and that is why the assistant/producer had him personally make his pitch.

I did offer a concession. I told him that in the future when it’s appropriate for me to do so, and if the appropriate releases are obtained, then I would be more than willing to come on his show and discuss Donda West, or any other patient for that matter.

Then, in an effort to use his Psychology 101 training, I guess as if he thought I was some kind of moron like him, he offered that he “had consulted on number cases like these and understood the issue from doctor’s perspective”. (That’s exactly the tactic used by Amy Keith at People Magazine.) He had become so sweet, I thought he’d give me a cavity.

But Phil is also a bully. Initially his posture was to be soft and accommodating, to embrace me as a colleague. We were buddies he implied. He offered that he had evaluated many patients psychologically for surgery in the past and knew what I was going through. He wanted his show to be balanced.  He had seen these types of patients in the past in his own practice and knew them to be “crazy and unreasonable”.

Yet when I declined to participate in his show at that time, his posture quickly changed to anger, as if a switch had been thrown, and he made it clear the show was going to go on “with or without me”.

He tried to scream me down, but I simply screamed back at him. “I have done over 4,000 surgical procedures”, I said.  If you want your show to be balanced, allow those 3,997 other people to sit in the audience while these three present their cases, or at the very least, let three women who are happy with their results join the fracas”. (I personally, with absolutely no solicitation on my part, or the part of my staff, know two women who were called by producers of the Dr. Phil Show, and denied participation because they had nothing negative to offer; so much for fairness.)

Apparently that is not Dr. Phil, or his show, at all. He’s not really concerned about people, or their issues, and he’s certainly not concerned with being fair. He’s concerned about eyes, that is people watching to increase advertising revenue, and Phil (and, frankly I have no problem with it). That’s TV, and that is what they do.

I might also add that shortly after his tirade Phil went back to sweet talking me. “Come on Jan (now using my first name)” he said, “I’d love to be able to discuss these issues with you.”

I declined again.

We now know that Dr. Phil has gone unsolicited to a hospital to see a patient: a hospital where he is not on staff, in a state where he is not licensed. We also know that he arranged bail for criminals in order to get an exclusive for his show.

I would also offer, that it was this kind of malicious defamation on the part of cattleman, that, he, himself, was now spinning toward me, which brought him and Oprah together in the first place.

Of the three women that he and his producers had invited on the show, one, a black woman, had hypertrophic scarring. In a woman of color, while that is unfortunate and written about extensively (and shared preoperatively with the patient), it is nowhere near malpractice or below the standard of care. It’s simply about an unfortunate, angry person who had not developed a career in the entertainment industry, wanting to blame everyone but herself for her predicament.  I see that a lot. She’s looking for attention.  

The other woman, a LPN, still owes our office $5,000 and her presence there was to create an air of defensiveness on our part. The best defense is a good offense. She simply is trying to avoid paying the remainder of her bill. It was nothing more than a scoundrel’s charge and Phil, whether he was smart enough to know it or not, was helping her complete her ruse.

Her case did go to court and therefore I am free to discuss it because it is public record. Let me first say this case was dismissed by the judge. Jama Strunk, the patient and the woman who took a free trip to Los Angeles on Harpo Productions’s dime, made false and defamatory statements in an attempt to avoid paying the doctor, plain and simple. She presented her story at the urging of Dr. Phil as if she had walked in off the street and was operated on by me. The truth is that she had established an ongoing relationship with our offices and me that extended over a period of seven months prior to her surgery (and we had the telephone records to substantiate it).

 The ugly truth is that she was a woman standing 5’2” tall whose maximum weight peaked at 365 lbs. She had intimated that with the massive weight loss and the “horribly ugly hanging skin” that she and her husband “had not engaged in sex” for more than a year. Here are excerts from the interview:

Dr. Phil: Did you have a consult with him before?…With Dr Adams, did you…

 Ms. Strunk (interrupting): Ten minutes before my surgery.

 Dr. Phil: So he didn’t…

 Ms. Strunk (interrupting again): Never met him.

 Dr. Phil Never met him. You…

 Ms. Strunk: No

During the court proceedings, in response to this conversation, I presented to the court both a Financial Responsibility Form, which Ms. Strunk had dated and signed and a hand written consultation note dated and signed by me confirming Ms. Strunks evaluation on July 3, 2007, for one hour, three days before her surgery which took place on July 6, 2007. Jama Strunk, Financial Responsibility; Jama Strunk, Hand Written H/P. (Note that the Financial Form is signed and dated by Ms. strunk herself. The history and physical exam page is almost comical in that I was still calling the month June (6) -see upper left hand corner.)

Dr. Phil continues: And after surgery, how long were you there before you were sent to the hotel? I mean, were…did you

 Ms. Strunk: Immediately. I never woke up…

 Notice that neither person in the conversation is allowing the other speaker to complete a thought. That is because the whole thing is rehearsed and Dr. Phil and his producers over at Harpo have to take responsibility for that. They were eliciting the story they intended to tell. But here’s the problem: again, in court, I produced the Recovery Room Report, signed and dated by both the recovery room nurse and the anesthesiologist on the case (Jama Strunk RR Report). (Note that while Ms. Strunk claims that she never woke up,  the recovery room nurse has her awake and oriented, not once but three times beginningmore than an hour before discharge; and that she was discharged to her mother, herself a nurse.)

We were also prepared to have them both testify at trial. Ms. Strunk was recovered for more than two hours and again was confirmed in a court of law to be lying.

Dr. Phil Mcgraw was, and is not, the concerned medical professional helping people with their problems. He was a dimwitted sociopath masquerading as a talk show host aiding a pathologic liar in the defamation of a surgeon.

 I really just couldn’t understand why Dr. Phil, as a professional, wasn’t interested in arriving at the truth.  I had said to him over the phone “look, this woman is lying to keep from paying her bill” and he ignored me (JS/CancelledCheck-Payment History). Ratings, it seems, are much more important to him than integrity. So in the words of Gordon Gecko: “If you stop telling lies about me, I’ll stop telling the truth about you.”

But here is the real question: If Ms. Strunk was unhappy with her surgery, why did she send the $300 check three months later. The fact of the matter is her surgery went just as discussed with her, she was very happy with the result, and engaged in lying when prompted by Phil McGraw and the producers over at the Dr. Phil show in order to use the death of Donda West as a publicity stunt. Ms. Strunk is lying and defaming a surgeon to get out of paying her bill, plain and simple; and Dr. Phil and his producers are abhorrent.

The 911 Call, People Magazine, and Donda West’s Nephew

She did however get what she came for, and here it was: her editor, Galina Espinoza, who was not at the meeting, ended up on  Dr. Phil (presenting herself as if she had been in a conversation with me) and offered that what she found “astounding” was how I blamed my patients for malpractice suits; how somehow, I wasn’t taking responsibility for my predicament.

Yet, Ms. Espinoza is a media whore just like Harvey. I called her in New York to offer information, documented facts, which demonstrated that the stories being told were inaccurate. Her response: “No one cares, Donda West is dead. It’s not a story that we or our readers are going to care about any more”.

That was an epiphany for me, because that was confirmation that it really didn’t matter at all what the facts were to these people; they were going to tell the story their way and when done they were simply going to move on regardless of the devastation left behind. All she wanted was to sell magazines. This woman was more callous than the lawyers. She had compassion for no one, not even the victim, Donda West.)

What I had said was that “suits are a little crazy. We have all seen bad plastic surgery out there. The problem is beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The patient makes the decision to sue or not; it depends on where their head is at the time, not on the surgery or the results. Some people go literally crazy over a scar and others recognize the scar as the cost of having skin removed. (I once had a patient complain, in front of her husband, that “her breast augmentation looked too real”; she wanted them big, sitting high, and looking fake. I ended-up re-doing them.)

So, unfortunately, you don’t need negligence to get a suit.You just need a patient willing to go there.” Fairly innocent and straight forward I thought, but their take was to make it look as if I was blaming the patient for the result or at the very least the suit. I was simply saying it’s a decision the patient makes. No doctor sues himself.

            The fact that People Magazine, Dr Phil, and other organizations joined in the “electronic lynching” with TMZ is scary; it speaks to mob rule and a wolf-pack mentality. What happened next challenged me to my core. Though not easy for me, I could shrug off the press because I knew they were all wrong. It, however, was not easy to sit back and watch the people I loved being hurt by what the press was saying .And what they were saying was mean. I say that because the press knew they were operating in a climate where, as a doctor, you couldn’t defend yourself. I said that point blank to Amy Keith. They all knew that any discussion of the facts would ultimately lead to a discussion of Donda West, (and I couldn’t go there), but they didn’t care. They all simply were trying to draw a line in the sand and have me step over it. It, their ill-informed meanness, was simply a dare, much in the way a bully makes a dare on the playground. It was also a disservice to Donda West.

             My answering service was receiving a hundred calls an hour, and the mailbox on my cell phone was filling up faster than I could answer it. I finally resolved that the only thing to do was shut it off and let the process run its course.

              The problem was it refused to burn out. I finally posed this question to Amy Keith: If it’s against the law for the doctor to violate doctor-patient privilege, isn’t it against the law for a reporter to ask him to do that? Is not asking a doctor to break a law conspiracy to commit a crime? She simply shrugged that off too. Her response, “I had to try”.

             But here is what she didn’t try: she didn’t try to have an independent thought. She tried to get me to talk to her about Donda West (in order to place a feather in her cap at my expense) and her “come on” was “verification” and the fact that “both her parents were doctors”(as if I gave a shit). As if her parents being doctors was going to make it okay to violate physician-patient privilege.

          “If both her parents are doctors” I thought, “ then clearly she had shared with them that she had gotten this interview, then surely she knew from them that doctors are forbidden by law to discuss the particulars of someone’s case”.

             What I hated was that this woman had listened to the 911 tape a number of times and hadn’t arrived at the question any idiot would have asked themselves: Who’s in charge over there? And, where is the person taking care of Donda West? What the tape of the “911 Call” demonstrated was that absolutely no one there at the time had a clue as to what was going on. So you’d think Ms. Keith would have first asked why? Why are things so chaotic? Who’s in charge over there? Why wasn’t her nephew, an experienced nurse with an advanced degree, with his aunt? Why are these women, with no medical training, home alone with this lady so soon after surgery? And, if there is someone who is supposed to be with her, why isn’t this person under scrutiny?

People Magazine added to the Mis-Information Concerning Donda West’s Death

 Tom Byrne, my attorney and friend, passed away two weeks ago. This book is as much a conversation on his journey the last few years as it is mine, since he was with me the entire way. I will miss him. Tom did a lot to focus me on the issues and helped to alleviate my anger in the early going. He was always trying to do the the right thing, even when the rest of the world wasn’t even interested in being fair.

In the final draft, I will dedicate this manuscript to his memory.

The lies told to the coroner’s investigator by Stephan Scoggins, and the myths continued by Harvey Levin and TMZ  in the press gained credence, survived and “stuck” so long because first and foremost, the length of time it took the Coroner to arrive at a decision, allowed inaccurate information to circulate without  challenge by the facts.  It also didn’t help that doctor-patient privilege prevented me from correcting the record.

            Secondly, the story took the form of a proverb or urban myth. In their book, “Made to Stick”, Chip and Dan Heath examine the “six principles of sticky ideas” (Random House, 2007). This story had all six. It was simple: woman dies after cosmetic surgery. It was unexpected: people have cosmetic surgery all the time. Many times the results are laughable, but come on, no one dies. (Unfortunately, that is part of the myth: people do in fact die all the time following cosmetic procedures.) Clearly it was concrete: a dead body. Where many people first heard the story made it credible: CNN. Regardless of who you are or what you do the story evoked some emotion: sadness, disgust, or fear. And, above all there was a story: Celebrity mom has surgery by celebrity plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills and dies.

 What was not so easy to understand was why, as the story dragged on and on, no one in the press, none of the so-called “real”  journalists, nor any of the authorities investigating the matter, bothered to research, or present the facts?  

Diana and Nubia were the only two people with Donda West from the time she left the surgery center to the announcement of her death at Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital. Neither one of them- both without the restraint of doctor-patient privilege- was interviewed by anybody, at any time, not even the coroner’s investigator. Why was that?

The best example of this, the people telling the story ignoring the principal players, comes from a woman named Amy Keith, a reporter with People Magazine. She called me a number of times, first to verify some issues and then “wanting to get my take on the 911 call”. It was now public record and some members of the press were using it as a way to generate a dialogue with me. I had not heard it, though it was being played on a number of outlets. Ms Keith was using the “verification” angle and she actually offered to send me a copy.

 I assured her that that wouldn’t be necessary.

She said she wanted to talk with me after I had heard it, and I suggested that she call back the following day, making sure that she knew I understood she had a deadline. Sure enough, she did. She called back. “What do you think?” she asked.

“I’m not sure what you mean” I countered.

“Well, you’ve had an opportunity to hear it, what’s your take on it?” She sounded impatient and I got the impression that she wasn’t as concerned with what I had to say, as she was with what she intended to write, regardless of what I had to say.

“I don’t have a take on it’ I said. “It is what it is. I’m interested in your take; you’re the one writing on it.”

I’m sure she found me tedious and not very cooperative, but what I was trying to do was to get her focused on what she was hearing. It seemed to me at the time that what she really wanted was some ridiculous soundbite she could take out of context, because in my mind you didn’t have to be Donda West’s doctor, a doctor, or Dr. Dre for that matter, to have an opinion on it. What was also obvious, at least to me, was that if she took the time to listen, I mean really listen, her take would be exactly my take, which was the take I had hoped she would have arrived at on her own anyway, without me.

I wanted to see her as intelligent. I wanted someone in the press to just get it. She didn’t, and that’s when I feared no one would. I felt helpless. I also began to believe this woman, this Amy Keith from People Magazine, was an absolute idiot. She may be and may have been, but the real problem was with me: I was suffering from what Dan and Chip Heath based on the research of Elizabeth Newton at Stanford call the “Curse of Knowledge”. I knew the significance of the message in the “911 Call” and it “was impossible for (me) to imagine what it’s like to lack that knowledge”. I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t see it. “When you listen to this” I began, “aren’t there two really pressing questions you ask yourself?

Nothing…she had no reply to give me.  

As a result, Ms. Keith and I went back and forth over the next day or so. She wanted my take and I wanted someone in the press to stop and look at the facts. She finally suggested that we meet and talk (her goal all along) and I consented to meet her at a hotel in Newport, not too far from my house in Laguna Beach. She had arrived before me and was sitting at a booth in the restaurant of the hotel, notes spread out on the table and a digital recorder in front of her.

“Hi, are you Amy? I asked.

She nodded warmly and smiled, “Yes, hi Dr. Adams.” She had that advantage, the advantage of recognition, because let’s face it, my picture, and a most unflattering picture at that, was everywhere.

After I had introduced myself and taken a seat across from her, the first thing I noticed was that she was very cute, and disarming, and had gone to extreme lengths to be business-like and professional. The second thing I notice, after she put a tape recorder in front of me, was that she wasn’t having a conversation; she wasn’t listening to me, she was working her angle and didn’t care what I had to say.

 “Can I get you something…coffee…something to eat?” she asked.

“No…no, water is fine.”

I watched her as she went about her business. She asked pointed questions, made eye contact occasionally, and asked for clarification when there was some confusion. In the beginning she focused on mundane issues in the press, her background research.

 I found it hard to maintain a conversation because she kept returning to issues that I had already explained I felt came under the auspices of doctor-patient privilege. She was undaunted. She would acknowledge my concern; move away from the taboo subject of Donda West, only to return with the same question worded another way. She was going to keep at it until she got some negative sound bite to print. That was obvious, and so was my naivete.

Here was a reporter I was naively expecting to be open and fair, and what this woman was, was a classic case of “confirmation bias”. She was not interviewing me, she was looking to gather information, regardless of whether the information was true or not in order to confirm her preconceptions. I should have recognized it when she brought up Aboolian. “Dr. Aboolian says he would not have operated on her”.

“That’s his business; I don’t have a comment on it.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter. He’s crazy and no one pays him any attention anyway.”

I didn’t expect that. That was perhaps more insight than I was prepared to give her. Perhaps I was wrong about Ms. Keith. I know I wanted to be. “Oh really…so if you know “he’s crazy” why do you guys keep repeating him?” I asked. Ms. Keith just shrugged it off. She had no answer for that. Perhaps, changing my opinion once again, she was as clueless as I had originally thought. I know she just didn’t seem to care about the facts.

TMZ, CNN, ACCESS HOLLYWOOD, AND DR. PHIL DENIED DONDA WEST THE JUSTICE MICHAEL JACKSON IS GETTING NOW

It actually speaks to one of my core beliefs, and a philosophy that my mother instilled in me at a very young age. It speaks to education and integrity. I am fiecrcely independent and I make no excuses for it. While it serves as my strength, it also functions as my weakness. In times such as these and in situations such as took place following the death of Donda West, it meant that no one was there to protect my flank. That is okay and I accept the consequences. But, make no mistake about it, I do not adhere to tribalism; I do not support guild socialism; and I do not require anyone’s permission except my own in order to succeed.

However, in September of 2006, one of my closest friends, Dr. Noel Tenenbaum, an excellent plastic surgeon in Tampa, Florida, challenged me to take the board exam. “Okay,” he said, “You’ve made your point. You’ve proven you are better at this than the rest of us. Get it done.”

And so, I got on a plane and flew to Chicago for a review course. The problem was, when I got off the plane, I collapsed with bilateral pulmonary emboli and required two weeks of hospitalization. It would appear that God laughs at those who make plans, because God has his own plans. It would appear that God wanted me to do other things. So let’s review:

I attended and graduated from Harvard College, which is ranked number one in the country by US News as America’s best college (now, I know some of my best friends who attended Princeton would argue that at the time they attended Princeton it was ranked #1 – but let’s just say I chose Harvard over Princeton).  I then went on to Ohio State University College of Medicine, ranked 37th out of 116 of America’s best graduate schools. I then trained in general surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, the Cornell affiliate, ranked 15th; plastic surgery at the University of Michigan, ranked 10th; and UCLA for aesthetic surgery, ranked 13th.  My point is not to impress you. My point is to impress upon you that there are different ways of going about medical training, each of which carries its own advantages, and disadvantages. Other areas of surgery offer an “in” into cosmetic surgery without going this route.

I chose not to do the minimum. And think about it. Where would we be if everybody settled for the minimum?  Where would Tiger Woods be as a golfer if he did just the minimum?  Where would George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Sam Jackson, and Denzel Washington be as actors if they just did the minimum? Where would Spike Lee or Steven Spielberg be as directors if they did just the minimum? And where would America be as a country if we did just the minimum?

I’m not suggesting that the ability to do cosmetic surgery is merely a function of the number of years of training, or the type of training. Nonetheless, the question placed on the table by the media was really, who is in fact qualified to do it?  I would make the argument that there are other disciplines, and other manners in which to train, besides plastic surgery that also do a good job at cosmetic surgery. (Understand, cosmetic surgery isn’t specifically a discipline. It merely refers to aesthetic procedures whose delineation at best, is somewhat murky as to whose realm it really is, or should be.) There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever in my mind that there are gynecologists who do better liposuction; general surgeons who do better tummy tucks and breasts; ophthalmologists who do better eyelid surgery; and otolaryngologists who do better noses and face lifts.

The point I’m trying to make is that when a surgeon says, “I’m board certified” in a certain area, what he is really saying- if you scratch him hard enough- is that “this is my area and I don’t want anyone infringing on it.” But the truth of the matter is that this is still America, and America is about competition. So I say, let the cream rise to the top. Those people who are good at it will attract the clientele who will follow them, plain and simple.

But why, you might ask, is all this important? I don’t care about Donda West, it’s over. We’ve moved on. (That’s exactly what the producers at CNN, Dr. Phil, TMZ, Access Hollywood, and the editors at People Magazine said when I offered corrections, with documentation, to their stories. Galina Espinoza at People was actually more calloused: “She’s dead; nobody cares…and unless you have something new that we’re interested in, we don’t care.”)

My answer is that you should care because we live in a democracy. In a democracy, where people vote on issues, information, good information, and not some reporter’s “take” or “angle” is fundamental. That is precisely why the 1st amendment to the constitution addressed the issue. With bad information we make bad decisions. That’s why we have a war where thousands of Americans, along with hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, have died looking, initially, for WMD’s that did not exist. We were sure they did and that is why Americans supported the war effort. Nonetheless, John King at CNN said it best, “We dropped the ball on that one”. He shrugged. The problem is his shrug did nothing for the innocent children who died, and are dying, as a result of the war. So it’s important because, if the press, any press, is going to have constitutional protection, they have to get it right and they must be held accountable. And hopefully when wrong, correct their mistake as soon as possible. Attack the truth with as much vigor as they presented their falsehoods. By comparison this is a small issue; but as any football coach knows sloppiness in practice spills over to the game.

Donda West got no justice because of it.

Dr Jan’s Blog Novel-Correcting the Record

In a comment C.S. wrote “…most important…what do you want people to do as a result of reading?…”  The answer: Nothing! There is not anything I want people to “do” after reading this manuscript. My goal, however, is that after reading it they will come to believe as I believe: That life need not be a struggle but a process, a process of self-definition (not self-discovery), of Growth (not learning) and of Being (not doing).

Therefore, please understand that my purpose is not to villify any of the players (neither Scoggins, Levin, the Medical Board of California, or the lawyers).  There are no villains in God’s world. As we begin, I am simply stating the facts.

This is a book about reclaiming oneself. This is about seeing with clarity the ultimate truth: that what you do to others you do to yourself; and that what you fail to do for others, you fail to do for yourself.

Back to our story:

In order to sit for board certification, you are required to fulfill a minimum of three years of general surgery and two years of plastic surgery training. As in all cases of “regulation” it is the minimum standard that is emphasized.These minimum standards gradually tend to become the maximum also. If the minimum qualifications are set for surgery, there is little to be gained from producing those surgeons who are above-average. Gradually, even an attempt to maintain minimum standards erodes.

I, on the other hand, had done much more during my training, and for that I am immensely proud. I completed five, not three, years of general surgery training at Lenox Hill Hospital, the Cornell University affiliate at the time. In my fifth year I served as administrative chief resident.

 Lenox Hill Hospital’s training program in general surgery is a pyramid program. That means, it is competitive all along the way. It begins with 12 interns but ends with only two chief residents; people are excluded from the program each year based on performance. Only two people get to complete the residency program. I was one.

From Lenox Hill Hospital, I went on to plastic surgery training at the University of Michigan. There I completed two years of plastic surgery training at one of the best programs in the country. I also served as administrative chief resident at that program in my senior year.

I could have been done at that point, but chose to do more. I wasn’t satisfied with the minimum. I knew I wanted to do aesthetic or cosmetic surgery, and Dr. Timothy Miller, a professor at UCLA School of Medicine, was starting a fellowship in aesthetic plastic surgery.

There are four areas of plastic surgery: 1) craniofacial surgery which involves moving bones around in the face, and pertains to anatomic defects in children and accident victims; 2) hand surgery, which is self-explanatory; 3) reconstructive surgery, which has to do with moving flaps around to cover holes or loss of tissue; and 4) aesthetic or cosmetic surgery.

Cosmetic surgery is actually a small part of what most plastic surgeons do, but as a result of its relationship to Hollywood and movie stars, gets the majority of the press. In fact, in the plastic surgery community, programs are deemed better if they virtually ignore vanity (cosmetic) surgery and concentrate on the more advanced techniques in reconstructive surgery including bone growth and microsurgical techniques. As a result, residents don’t get a lot of cosmetic surgery training, and that’s another reason why I chose to extend my training to include a fellowship in aesthetic surgery.

This is a fact that a lot of plastic surgeons don’t want you to know. They don’t want you to know that you can be board certified and have never done a face lift, a tummy tuck, or a breast augmentation on your own. It is simply a cheap advertising tool that suggests an air of expertise but guarantees nothing. It does not eliminate potentially dishonest or substandard plastic surgeons, but merely make their activities harder to detect and easier to whitewash.

 I am particularly sensitive to this group dynamics. I reject guild socialism and it frankly serves as both an asset and a liability. When I started my fellowship in aesthetic surgery at UCLA, it was precisely that group of board certified casual faculty who began to dismantle the aesthetic fellowship the first day. And you want to know why?  Because they make most of their money doing cosmetic surgery, and the last thing they needed was to produce a lot of Dr. Adamses. The last thing they needed was to produce cosmetic surgeons with more training than they have. That would raise the requirements for “standard of care” and that created fear for them all.

They weren’t about to let better trained aesthetic surgeons enter the market. And so Harvey Levin missed the real story. He failed to see that they hate and resent surgeons like me because I am better trained and refuse to join their club. Mr. Levin helped them continue to fool and mislead the public, in addition to denying Donda West justice.  

          Dr. West knew this. She was an extremely smart and educated woman who interviewed a number of physicians (according to the coroner’s report) before deciding on Dr. Adams. In fact, all my patients know this. As lead dog, Harvey missed it and then led the pack, including the real news reporters, down the wrong path. The real story here is not board certification. The real story is why this program is no longer offered at UCLA even though the other three areas of plastic surgery offer fellowships. The real question is why would surgeons kill a program that raised the standard of care?

 Now board certification is important-it’s just not the only way- and I would advise any resident to pursue it (The fact is that many, many more types of surgeons are more than qualified to perform cosmetic procedures than plastic surgeons). It’s not that it means that much if you have it, but if you don’t, they will surely one day find a way to use it against you. I knew that day would come for me and I wanted it. I wanted people to talk about training and expertise, not advertising. I wanted people to justify killing a program, like the one at UCLA, simply because it raised the “standard of care”.

 

Dr Jan’s Blog Novel-Correcting the Record

Further examination of Harwell’s letter (page 2, item 2) states that “an accusation is already on file against Dr Adams”. Figure 25 is a photocopy of that complaint. It is an allegation, written on a Medical Board of California Consumer Complaint Form, dated the 18 November, 2007.

Now granted, I have yet to appear on Larry King Live, so in fact they have no complaint, but more importantly, it is signed by none other than Stephan Scoggins, Donda West’s nephew, someone already willing to demonstrate (and has) that he is prepared to lie to the Coroner’s investigater in order to hide what I believe is his criminal negligence in his aunt’s death. They were complaining to the medical Board that I was not giving them information, eleven days before they requested it. (I’m sure this is why detectives like their jobs.)

Now Ms. Johnston is under no obligation to discuss with me or any other physician for that matter, who she does or doesn’t know. But Ms. Johnston, in her capacity as Executive Director of the MBC does have a duty of candor. Nevertheless, my purpose here was not to single out Ms. Johnston. (Indeed, Bernie Karmatz is a hundred times worse.) It does however demonstrate a pattern of behavior coming out of the Medical Board of California, one of lies and harassment of physicians, and abuse of power. No one knew at the time what had really happened to Donda West. And the authorities who had had an opportunity to review the chart all knew that the information in the press was coming from the family of Donda West and her attorneys. They knew it because it was all wrong. The data in the press was wrong. They knew it wasn’t coming from me, but they continued to “flex” for the cameras.

Let’s take a closer look at the behavior of these attorneys by examining their letter to the Medical Board. Keep in mind that they were “supposedly” hired to protect the interests “of the estate of Donda West and the surviving family members”. That surviving family member is Kanye West, and only Kanye West. Stephan Scoggins has no legal authority to represent her estate and a review of court filings in Los Angeles demonstrate that Donda West died inestate and that Kanye, himself, didn’t legally have authority until March of 2008. So why were they protecting Scoggins? And why was the press ignoring the inconsistencies? The only answer is meanness.

Harvey Levin, for his part, was committed to his personal attacks on me. He had long ago abandoned Donda West. He suggested that malpractice suits filed by patients were related to my training as a surgeon. It seemed important at the time to imply that malpractice suits demonstrated a pattern. They do. However, once again, Harvey was so intent on “gotcha journalism”that he missed it.

 These suits not only represent an abomination perpetrated against me; they are a symbol of the foulness that has contaminated our entire society. Evaluation shows all of them to be without merit. Harvey was again presenting only half of the story in an attempt to support his uninformed position.

In those instances where the patient (or the doctor) thought a scar could be improved or further refinement might be in order, a problem arose. The patient had no money to cover operating room costs. The only recourse, in their minds, was to use legal force to compel doctors to do it for nothing. (I will allow also that some people are just underhanded and will always try to get something for nothing. That, however, does not represent malpractice on the part of the doctor.)

At any given moment in the United States, there are 60,000 open medical malpractice cases involving about 700,000 physicians. Furthermore, as noted by Jeff Segal, M.D., the CEO of Medical Justice News, “The national practitioner databank includes the names of over 200,000 healthcare professionals who have not only been sued but have paid a settlement or judgment. So, being sued, as noted by Dr. Segal, is hardly an indictment of incompetence, although the media would have you believe otherwise.”  There’s even more incentive if your doctor is the guy on TV.

When these suits occur, you will find that the plaintiff’s attorney sues a host of people – the anesthesiologist, the surgery center, and the surgeons – all at once in an effort to divide and conquer and also get the most money for his work. During these procedures, the plaintiff’s attorney provides a paid expert who argues that the treatment in his opinion is below the standard of care. The defense, on the other hand, pays an expert who says, “No, I’ve reviewed this case and the level of care is not below the standard.”  I suggested to Mr. Levin that he do his own research and contact the attorneys representing neither the plaintiff nor the defendant but the surgery center. The attorney representing the surgery center in every case I’ve been associated with has called my attorney and confessed that in spite of all this, their group of experts has never found that Dr. Adams’ care was below the standard of care; in other words, the suits were frivolous and unfounded.

There is, however, one case that deserves a personal comment. There was a patient who had won a judgment allegedly due to a sponge having been left in a breast pocket at the time of placement of breast implants. I say allegedly because the case never went to trial. I never talked to the doctor who supposedly found the sponge, and I never saw any documentation that I was in fact her surgeon. That patient, a Ms. Lori Ufondu, did not come to Dr. Adams as she had claimed; she consulted another surgeon, Dr. Nicholas Chugay, who in fact was named as the lead surgeon in her case.  I happened to be in this doctor’s facility at the time she presented. He asked me to see this patient because she had had surgery previously, and he wanted to get another opinion. I examined her and suggested that he place her implants under the muscle because she was thin, and complaining that she could see wrinkling. Generally, “wrinkling” is the result of not enough soft tissue (subcutaneous fat) to camouflage or cover the implant, or that an implant is under filled. In this instance I felt that there was not enough tissue to adequately camouflage the implant. Placing it below the muscle, though not perfect, would allow him to camouflage it better. It would also minimize the problem with erosion of the implant through the skin over time. He asked that I be present when the surgery occurred.

Ms. Ufondu apparently had the procedure done and I can’t comment on whether I was present as an assistant or the primary surgeon. She presented her case more than seven years later. She did not win her case because she, or her lawyer, demonstrated that one of the doctors was at fault: she won her case because the surgery center had misplaced her chart and was unable to find it. For some reason they believed I had it, but I didn’t.

As a result, I reviewed over 200 augmentation mammoplasties that I had done personally. I have used lap pads in all of them and never, not once, a sponge.

 A lap pad is a large cloth used for soaking up blood. It measures about nine inches square and has a long blue ribbon attached at one of the four corners. It is a thick cotton material and frankly a lot of health care professionals use those left over from an operation (they come five to a pack) as dust cloths and rags for cleaning around their homes. A sponge, or 4×4, is a thin cotton mesh used as a dressing after surgery is completed. I use lap pads because that’s exactly what I was taught.

The person who taught me breast surgery was Ed Wilkins at the University of Michigan. Ed is a tremendous surgeon who is incredibly meticulous. He never allowed a sponge in the operating room during this procedure because when they’re wet, they’re like tissue paper, and frankly, easy to lose once they are wet. This is a practice that has followed me throughout my career. Since I have never used a sponge in these types of cases, the likelihood after reviewing 200 cases that I did in this only one, are unlikely. Nonetheless, I believe that surgeons should take responsibility for the care of patients and sometimes that means even when it is not specifically your fault, and I do that.

 I would, however, add that California law requires the presence of a registered nurse in the operating room. One of the duties of the registered (circulating) nurse is to keep an accurate count of sponges. I doubt seriously if any surgeon closed an open wound in a patient where a nurse advised that the sponge count was incorrect. Nonetheless, as I said before, it is the surgeon’s ultimate responsibility and for that I am more than happy to take the responsibility, but not the blame, for Ms. Ufondu. However, I do stand on my position and I will not alter that. I have never used, or allowed, a sponge like the one apparently found in Ms. Ufondu on the surgical field, in my twenty-year career, period.

Finally, Harvey moved on to attacking the issue of board certification, but Harvey didn’t really understand its significance, or what it meant:

 The American Board of Plastic Surgery certifies that the PLASTIC SURGERY PROGRAMS across the country meet certain minimum required standards by testing those individuals who have completed a certain minimum of requirements to sit for their exams.(What they are really examining is the program, not specifically the individual. This was also suggested to Amy Keith, a writer for People Magazine, by Dr. David A. Kulber, director of the Plastic Surgery Center at Cedar Sinai in Los Angeles. His quote: “{noncertification} suggests a problem in your training or education”. She ignored that. She made no effort to examine neither my education or training-and neither did Harvey Levin, Esq.)

Dr Jan’s Blog Novel-Correcting the Record

On Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 11:15 am, I received a call from a gentleman named Richard Marino. Caller-ID identified the call as coming from ST of CA JUSTIC, so I took it. Mr. Marino is an Deputy Attorney General for the State of California and handles cases for the Medical Board of California. He is also someone I respect.

 He takes his job seriously, is tough but fair, and his attention to detail makes him awesome at his job although he can appear gruff and inflexible (I think unfairly). I liked him immediately because he is a straight shooter, and that’s something you don’t find in people associated with government.

Our conversation went like this:

“Hello” I said.

“Hey, Dr. Adams, Richard Marino.”

“Hey, What’s up? What can I do for you?”

“First, let me ask you a question… who’s your favorite quarterback?”

“Of all time, or playing now?

“Now”

“I guess I’d have to say Drew Brees since Manning isn’t playing.”

“I’d thought you’d say Fitzpatrick.”

“Fitzpatrick?”

“Yeah since he went to Harvard.”

“He’s good, and I wish him the best, but can’t say he’s my favorite.”

“By the way, are you writing a Blog right now?”

“Yeah…but why?

“Is it different from the book I have?”

“Yeah, but who wants to know?”

“Oh,  someone at the board ask me. They alert me when people I know come up on the radar. Well maybe I’ll just take a look at it. Well, any reason to call and say hello.”

“You don’t need an excuse. Always good to hear from you.”

“What else are you up to these days?”

“I’m continuing to go to lectures weekly.. CME credits youknow… so that’s out of the way, and right now I’m reviewing the Osler course in Plastic Surgery. So I’m on track…Doing the right things.”

“Well, I’ll keep in touch. I’ll take a look at the blog.”

“Okay, talk with you later.”

This conversation, make no mistake about it, speaks volumes  to my previous post. God is good, it occurred right on cue and that is why I get to share it with you. Obviously, somebody over at the Medical Board, who wishes to remain anonymous, is concerned. Not so much for me mind you, but out of fear that I will tell the truth. Marino’s job, whether he was consciously aware of it or not (and he was because he is certainly no dummy), was to alert me that they were watching. That’s okay, I invite them in to our discussion. Furthermore, I encourage them to share in the comment section and I will use their suggestionsto makethisa better, more informative, more fair publication. I’m comfortable with what I did, but I guess if you choose to be anonymous, you are not.

I suspect in the very near future I’ll start getting harassed. That’s okay too, only this time the dialogue won’t be one sided. I’ll present my side. You see, the negative requires an absence (ignorance, impotence, irrationality); the positive requires a presence (knowledge, efficacy, thought). Besides, nothing breeds appropriate behavior in government workers faster than the exposure to the light of public scrutiny. Think Mitt Romney and the illegal alien gardeners he fired stating that “hey, I’m running for public office here and people are watching”.

The last time I talked with Mr.Marino was about six months ago. I had submitted my petition for reinstatement of my medical  license. The tech in the offices of the Medical Board had made a mistake by accepting my application; apparently it was too early. I understood and saw no reason to brow beat the tech. She was actually a nice lady just trying to do her job. At that time Marino called to, I suspect, make sure I knew the delay wasn’t coming from his office. In polite conversation he, then, made a disturbing (and innocent) statement that bothered me. In passing he said “they were pretty mad about the Donda West thing”. 

“They who?” I asked.

He never said. But here’s the point, they, whoever they are down at the Medical Board, had no reason to be mad about the Donda West thing, at least not at me. The coroner pointed out that “neither anesthesia nor surgery mishaps contributed to her death”. They certainly had access to the same information and the coroner, himself. But someone at the board was obviously using mis-information, or thelack of it, to attack an innocent physician, me. (Maybe that’s why the founding fathers were so skeptical of govermment and wrote the constitution to protect citizens from the government, not each other.)

 Anyway, back to our story: (Just know that your comments are being reviewed by people who have already demonstrated their agenda trumps the truth.)

On November 20, 2007, my attorney, Thomas Byrne, Esq, received a letter via facsimile from Attorney McPherson stating that he, along with Brad Rose of Pryor Cashman LLP in New York; represent the family of Donda West. The letter (figure22) suggested a violation of physician-patient privilege associated with the media frenzy going on at the time, but offered no specifics. Of particular interest to this discussion was McPherson’s assertion that “we understand that the board has contacted Dr. Adams and similarly demanded that he cease and desist”.

 I received a copy of this letter at the CNN studios in New York City as I walked to the set to do the Larry King Show. I was in NYC, had been on an airplane all day, and this was the first I had seen the letter. It was instrumental in my decision to terminate my interview with Larry. My attorney wanted this letter clarified before we went any further. I explained that to Larry and apologized for the inconvenience.

The fact is that I had not spoken with the Medical Board of California or any of its agents. After reviewing the letter I placed a call to a Ms. Rene Threadgill, Chief Enforcement Officer, Medical Board of California. She clarified that while she had indeed called my office, she and I had never spoken. She further went on to say that she did not call to warn me to “cease and desist” anything, that in fact her call had been placed to ensure I knew their policy concerning the matter. She was not aware of any violations. She did, however, comment that attorneys were “prone to hyperbole” and that she didn’t give much credence to their comments.

My concern though was not the speaking or writing style of attorneys, but merely the factual content of their communications, in this case, McPherson’s letter.

But, here’s the disturbing part, and further documentation of something drastically wrong going on at the Medical Board of California from my perspective. In an e-mail:I forwarded to Barb Johnston, Executive Director, I pointedly asked her if she had had any communication with Mr. McPherson (much in the same manner that I had asked her about Harvey Levin).

(Ms. Johnston offered that she had never heard of him and sardonically suggested that I might ask McPherson exactly who, in her office, with whom he spoke:

 Ms. Cohen, a media representative at the Medical Board of California, went so far as to inform me that the Medical Board has no such authority, “We can’t tell a doctor to grant, or not grant, an interview. We have no such authority.”

Ms. Johnston, it would seem, has a problem with candor. Despite her insistence that she had never communicated with Mr. McPherson, had no idea of exactly who he was, and her sardonic tone of how ridiculous my entire inquiry was, I produced a letter addressed to her from a Mr. John D. Harwell introducing himself and none other than Edwin McPherson:

 

The lawyers for the West family had been communicating with, and pressuring, the Medical Board of California to keep this doctor quiet all along; in reality, so they could get the story out there the way they wanted it told. 

 In his letter to the Medical Board, dated November 20, 2007, Mr Harwell engages in some pretty fascinating creative writing. (First note that his letter is dated exactly the same day as McPherson’s letter. There is no time for me to respond to McPerson’s letter if they both went out the same day. It reeks of dishonesty.)

 Mr. Harwell has apparently been hired by Ed McPherson because of his experience having dealt with the Medical Board. I have never met or spoken to Harwell but I find it amazing that he admonishes the board that I am “scheduled to make an appearance on the Larry King Show on CNN to, literally, speak ill of the dead”?  How could Mr. Harwell know that? How could Mr. Harwell know in the future what Larry King would ask and how I would answer? The fact is he couldn’t. What Mr. Harwell knew was what I had shared with Rose: that in my opinion (and the opinion of the LA County Coroner) Donda West was dead because of negligence on the part of her nephew, Stephan Scoggins. He abandoned her while she was under his direct care, twelve hours after her surgery; he left her alone, with no skilled care, with narcotics on board, in order to attend a baby shower. (Pretty much the exact same set of circumstances for which Conrad Murray is on trial.)

Mr. Harwell’s fear wasn’t that I would violate physician-patient privilege; it was that I would “out” Stephan Scoggins, their client. And guess who was paying for all this?

These people were actually taking money from Kanye West, to protect Stephan Scoggins, knowing he was the person who had abandoned his mother’s care and was the healthcare professional most negligent in her demise.

Mr. Harwell makes reference to articles in People Magazine, but there are no references in People of me having discussed anything about Donda West. Also, he makes no reference to what exactly it was that I supposedly said. The fact is no such violations occurred (except those perpetrated by the family).

Furthermore, at the bottom of page one, Mr Harwell states that “among other insults, Dr Adams will not release Dr. West’s patient chart to her family and counsel, citing patient confidentiality”. 

This is where Harwell crossed the line from an arrogant idiot to a co-conspirator. Remember, McPherson’s letter also went out on the November 20, 2007. I had yet to receive a legal request for records from McPherson until November 29, 2007, more than nine days later.

I personally had called Mr. McPherson’s office and explained the procedure for getting the documents. I let them know that we would need a release form signed by the executor of her estate, which we could provide for them, and that whoever they sent to retrieve the documents would need some identification. On January 8, 2008, I received another letter from McPherson’s office, this one somewhat nasty, and so I sent him a reply.

More than six weeks later Mr. McPherson’s office had yet to pick up the documents that they had threatened that they get immediately. They were again threatening us by contacting the Medical Board, but yet hadn’t taken the time to merely pick them up. This was indicative of the entire matter and what was so frustrating from our standpoint.

My assessment was just that these guys were out of their area of expertise and simply had no idea of what to do. They were doing their clients a dis-service.

Dr Jan’s Blog Novel-Correcting the Record

The advantage of a book, over a print article or video, is perspective. Books allow the author both time and space to develop, clarify, and present his, or her, story. It also allows the reader ample time to process the data. Does what I am reading make sense? Are the figures clear and precise? Whose version of the truth do I believe?

In a recently posted comment Noel says: “I don’t doubt the accuracy of your experiences with the state’s “experts” at the board. The question becomes how to move your journey forward because they do not have any interest in finding truth or making progress in this matter.”

A fantastic point because it speaks to the purpose of this book (and this serialization). It also points to a consideration on my part for writing a preface, introduction, and title. At some point, we all need to have some idea of where this is all heading.

Philosophically, the crucial question is the distinction between that “which is metaphysically given; and any object, institution, procedure, or rule of conduct made by man”. The point: the metaphysically given must be accepted; it cannot be changed. The man-made on the other hand must never be accepted  (at least not uncritically); it must be judged, accepted or rejected, and changed when necessary.

Concerning the board and the other actors in this saga, the issue is actually quite simple. I have no intentions whatsoever of changing anyone’s opinion or pointing fingers. I merely intend to present the facts. Let each reader digest those facts to discover his truth. What I do believe however is that when people do horrible things under the cover of darkness, the worst thing one can do is leave off the light.

In the first few “chapters” I wanted to set the stage. It was not to single out any particular culprit. My goal was only to look at what was said and done (and by whom) to get the story out there the way it was originally told, and then to document the accuracy of those statements.

Chapter one looked at the corner’s report, chapter two looked at some members of the press, and chapter three introduced the Medical Board of California. (If you are new to our conversation, please take a look at those posts in the archives.)

Looking forward, it is also important to look at the lawyers involved and what they did, and finally (and perhaps most importantly) to look at myself.

Noel’s point is fantastic because the story, the benefit to the reader, is not what these people did, but who I decided and chose to be in response to what they did.

This is a book about discarding those things in life which do not speak to who you are, or who you want to be. It is both an illustration and a guide for getting back on track after you have taken a fall, or experienced a setback. Every life will have its problems, for that is the nature of living. Yet survival, and ultimately happiness, lay not in what got you there, but what you do to get out.

Therefore, this book is also about taking steps to inspire the best in you. It is about lessons learned and taught from a life that is inspired by love and guided by knowledge, a mother’s life.

 I will also look at the information age gone drastically wrong, and the “electronic lynching” of an innocent man that occured as a result. What took place following the death of Donda West is fundamentally no different than the lynchings in the south that took place at the height of the Ku Klux Klan -except, that in this case, a group of black folks on the radio, in the press, and on the internet joined in to assist in commiting and covering-up (whether they were aware of it or not) the crime.

 It is about the behavior of family members, how the media chose to tell the story, the actions of the attorneys involved, and the response of the authorities to all this and the effect it had on me and my life. Most importantly, it is about what it took to turn all of that around. It is about turning tragedy into triumph.

 There are no victims in God’s world. Each calamity is merely a set of circumstances we all bring to ourselves so that we can create, in that moment, who we want to be. Ultimately, that is the purpose of life.

I will document the things I have to say. There will be no heresay here. For many of the participants that will be painful and embarrassing. For others it will expose their hypocrisy and demonstrate their evil. Some will even feel remorse, though there will be those who continue to deny the truth in the face of overwhelming data. These people are sick and deserve our compassion.

Practically, in moving forward the formula too is easy: set realistic goals, develop plans to get there, and take action.

That is what I did (and am doing) and frankly this work, this book, is part of that process.

Back to our Story:

At times our search for the truth might, and can be, tedious. This is precisely that time. A lot of different things, perpetrated by a lot of different players, were happening simultaneously. Everyone was coming at me at once. Each had his or her own agenda. To clearly understand what was going on, we can’t just look at each incident as it occurred (a lot was happening behind the scenes), we also have to consider “side bars” that initially may seem to offer little, but once examined, shed light where we may not even have thought to look.

           I walked-off of Larry King Live (at the request of the West family). But before I had consented to appear on the show, I had consulted not only with my attorney, I had also discussed with Brad Rose, “the litigation attorney for the estate of Donda West and the surviving family members” my intentions.  We, Rose and I, agreed I had a right, separate from the Donda West matter, to answer charges to my reputation. After all, he is an entertainment lawyer and understands the importance of reputation.

 But in order to clearly understand the deviousness of this character, this Brad Rose, we have to first get a grip on where he came from:

Kanye West’s attorney is a woman named Alison Finley. She is a partner at Davis, Shapiro, Lewit, and Hayes, LLP, an entertainment law firm in New York City specializing in the music industry. Kanye is just one of the artists on Finley’s register of clients. (I have never spoken with Ms. Finley.)

 Following the death of Donda West, Ms. Finley apparently secured the services of Brad Rose at Pryor Cashman LLP, who introduced himself to me as the “litigation attorney”. (And, just for the unindoctrinated, Mr. Rose’s introduction as such was a threat on his part. Mr Rose is the bully. You don’t call yourself “a litigation attorney” unless you intend to litigate.) Mr. Rose, though, acting as lead attorney, in turn, hired Edwin McPherson of McPherson and Associates, a Los Angeles firm, to “represent the family of Dr. Donda C. West”. (To be honest I was a bit confused on this because Brad Rose’s firm has offices in Los Angeles. But it turned out his services were obtained to protect the interests of Stephan Scoggins. According to Mr. McPherson that is who his client was.) Mr. McPherson, being an entertainment lawyer himself, secured the services of a John D. Harwell because of his “relationship” with the Medical Board of California.

  This all happened within days of Donda West’s death. At this point her body hasn’t even been picked up from the hospital by the Coroner. No one, I mean no one, (that is, no one but Scoggins, Rose, and I) had any idea of what had happened to Donda. I don’t even have a lawyer yet and so, it is important at this time to ask two questions: First, why did the family of Donda West need a lawyer? And secondly, since Pryor Cashman LLP in New York has an office in Los Angeles, why did they need to hire McPherson? McPherson is also an entertainment attorney. He does the same things they do.

 The answer, though you would never get it unless you were looking, is actually quite simple. Rose hired McPherson to represent Stephan Scoggins (that is the other family members to whom he is referring). I had discussed the entire matter with Rose. Knowing what he did about Scoggins negligence in the matter, he then hired Mcpherson (which I believe is clearly a conflict of interest) to help protect Scoggins, while at the same time distancing his firm in the event his ruse was detected. I know this to be true because I filed a complaint with the California Bar. I was concerned about the conflict of interest on the part of the attorneys. McPherson’s response was that he was protecting his client, and his client was: Stephan Scoggins.

Dr Jan’s Blog Novel-Correcting the Record

Before I get back to the story, let me take the opportunity to thank some people for their input: Pinkie Maria, Chantay Linzie, and Robin Kamm, thank you for the ranking information. I  will use it. However, remember your input is also crucial to editing. I want it to be a conversation, so your questioning the data and the story will strengthen the argument by forcing me to be clear. That’s why I include documents to support my take.

Delicia, Sharri, Michal, Marcellus, Kareen, Sybil, Hellen and Nancy R. thanks so much for taking the time to read. I want your input on content too. My publisher and I differ on content (that’s one of the reasons I put it out there). She works in media and therefore is protective of it. She felt she wouldn’t be able to get media advertisement for the book, if I was too hard on the media. I don’t think it is necessary to be hard on the media, but I am going to challenge when they have it wrong. I decided just to tell the truth. What I object to is the media running from the truth when I produced documents refuting their stories. I find that incredibly dishonest on their part.

Rachael, Clark, and Mindi: I will use my twitter account to alert you (and everyone else) to posts. As for facebook, it’s coming. My immediate goal was just to have a conversation with a few people who I cared about; I just wanted you to have the facts from me before I moved on.

Back to our story:

I was getting nowhere with this guy, this Bernie Karmatz. I had discussed his harassment and abuse with my lawyer Tom Byrne, but even he was at a loss to understand it. Personally, I believe it was because Tom simply would not believe the truth. He’s a lawyer and has to believe in the system (they created it). He didn’t and couldn’t see a governmental agency as just being sinister for the sake of being sinister. He just considered Bernie to be an idiot, but my concern was having the regulators abusing power. I was sure that Bernie was an idiot, but even idiots abuse power.

I decided also to seek advice from colleagues who were in the Diversion program. Although, I had not been accepted officially into the program (I had never been given the opportunity to meet with the DEC), I had nonetheless resolved to give it a chance. I attended a number of their meetings.

The members of the program all knew Bernie Karmatz a lot longer than I had. I just couldn’t understand what was wrong with this guy. Maybe he was denied entrance into medical school and resented any of us who had been successful. Perhaps his mission now was to “get” every doctor he could, since he had sought out a position in which he could exercise some authority over them (or perhaps I should say us).

They all had incredible insight ranging from the fact that most thought our friend Bernie (Mr. Karmatz) was simply a prick; to those who questioned if I needed to be there in the first place.

These people, the doctors in this program, were impressive to me. They all had had a problem that they confronted head on and I respected them for that. They also acknowledged that at the time of their inclusion into the group they needed to be there. Almost all admitted to being a mess when they arrived. And that, according to the consensus of the group, was the basis for my problem with Bernie. I wasn’t a mess. I arrived with none of their issues. More importantly, I had a clean bill of health from Hazelden. The experts, picked by the Medical Board of California itself, had discharged me from the facility with staff approval because I did not meet the criteria for admission. I didn’t have to take Bernie’s crap, and I didn’t.

But as I said before, what goes on at the Medical Board of California is a bit more sinister. Due process is not a part of their mantra. Despite my communications all along with Mr. Valine, I received a letter from him with all kinds of innuendo ignoring every conversation and letter I had copied to him. It would seem that the fish that is the Medical Board of California stinks from the head (figure17).

I responded immediately (figure18). I now had more than enough information and a solid assessment of whom I was dealing with now, and necessity required that I address these people immediately. They were all very bad people, abusing their mandate without any checks and balances.

I should have expected it. A year earlier, in August of 2006, I had been contacted by a Robin Hollis, a senior investigator, for the Medical Board of California. Another doctor, an anesthesiologist, I had used on a number of occasions, was being investigated. Doctor-patient privilege prevents me from discussing the particulars of this case too, but after a telephone conversation she informed me that they would like me to come in and review the case face-to-face with their examiner. I told her I would be happy to do that. I then received a fax detailing what she really meant (figure19).

 Not once during our conversation did Ms. Hollis suggest that she was going to need any of the items in her letter. I felt sideswiped. At the least she had been less than genuine. I told her I would have to speak to my attorney before I could commit to a meeting, particularly one involving the career and reputation of someone else. I also demonstrated my disdain for her deception.    

 (It’s important to understand that the Medical Board represents consumers, not physicians. Somehow though, they interpret their mandate to mean they don’t have to be fair.)

 I forwarded her a letter expressing my concern (figure20). The meeting was confirmed for August 3, 2006, in her office. I met with her and her investigator, a physician I did not know. He began by going through the fine print of the patient’s chart and this went on for about an hour. When finally my patience had been exhausted, I asked him where this was going.

He put me off, and continued going through the detail of the chart. Ultimately, it came down to this: the recovery room nurse had written that the patient was received in the recovery room at 14:25 hours. The anesthesia record showed that the patient had been discharged from the operating room at 12:25 hours. I was being harassed to explain to the Medical Board of California what had happened in those two hours.

I explained that my review of the chart demonstrated that the patient had no problems. The anesthesia report confirms that the patient was wheeled the twenty feet to the recovery room. The anesthesiologist signed her in to recovery at 12:25, which was consistent with the operative note. “Maybe, just maybe” I offered,  “the nurse couldn’t tell time”. At any rate what they needed to do was ask the nurse, not me. She wrote it.

Needless to say, I made no new friends that day at the Medical  Board of California. It’s okay though, the Medical Board of California isn’t looking for friends. They are looking to justify their own existence. Under the guise of protecting the public, a career administrator is looking for a promotion by “getting some doctor”.

Now don’t get me wrong: I understand the position of the Medical Board of California concerning physicians and substance abuse and I support their efforts. I also believe when you are wrong, you own it, correct it, make amends for it, and then move on with the intention of doing better. I humbly submit to that.

With that in mind I am more than willing to fulfill whatever obligations they deem appropriate. But I will not be forced to own something that is not mine. I will not allow other people to apply labels to me that do not speak to who I am. I will not sit idly by while career administrators abuse the system.

 Mr. Karmatz now understands that whether he accepts it or not. I personally do not require that of him. What I require of him is what I have always required of him: while he goes about his job, never forget that at the other end of their policy is a human being. And furthermore, you don’t have to be an alcoholic to benefit from alcohol counseling and awareness.

Unfortunately, these kinds of assaults were not linear; they were happening all at once. In his appearance on Larry King Live, Harvey Levin stated that (with regard to me as a physician) “and the medical board—at least the executive director—doesn’t think he should be practicing”.

So, I asked the Executive Director of the medical Board of California about that statement. Her reply is displayed in figure21. It is an unqualified denial of what Harvey Levin shared with Larry King and his audience. Again Harvey Levin, an attorney, was bastardizing the first amendment in order to focus a camera on himself. He was also misrepresenting the truth. He was lying and the “tone” of the stories to follow, were following his lead.

The Medical Board however, is worse. They had access to the facts. They knew that Harvey Levin was lying to the public; they knew that Stephan Scoggin’s was lying to the Coroner’s investigator; and they knew that “the litigation attorneys for the estate of Donda West and the surviving family members” were lying to them. Yet, because of media and possibly political pressure they ignored common decency and fairness. Their posture speaks to the vulnerability of millions of people to the rise of Naziism in the 1920’s. They knew the doctor was not at fault, and yet went along, continued to harass the doctor and appease public opinion despite the fact that they knew public opinion was wrong. You would think that a state agency, like the Medical Board, acting as a final adjudicator would be held to the same standard of impartiality as a judge. However, because it also conducts the investigation, the Board is really in partnership with the prosecutor (the attorney general). Having therefore made the determination to proceed with a hearing, the Board now has a stake in the outcome. They can’t be objective about witnesses or testimony because the “facts” are obtained through the Board’s own investigation by the Board’s own investigators.

And, it goes one dangerous step further.The singular guiding purpose of the medical board investigator, as I said,  is to “get some doctor”. He or she is in no position to prevent or to create something. He gets no credit for that hot, new, less invasive  procedure. It is this emphasis on the negative that creates such regulators as Bernie Karmatz, those concrete, anti-conceptual morons who misuse, and abuse, the authority of office in order to conduct their own private witch hunts, all for the purpose of self promotion at someone else’s expense.

Dr Jan’s Blog Novel-Correcting the Record

Following my conversation with Frank Valine, I was under the misguided impression that these people at the Medical Board of California and I were on the same side. I wanted to find some answers before making a judgement and I thought they did too. They, I soon learned, had no intention of being helpful or fair:

The following month I went voluntarily to the Hazelden Springbrook facility in Newberg, Oregon for evaluation. I figured why not? Get the facts, confront things head on, and move on. (I had asked Bernie Karmatz that, “with USC, UCLA, Standford and CAL-Berkeley, why there wasn’t a facility to attend in the State of California”?  He assured me “these people were the experts” (his words); and that “the Medical Board of California had used them before and fully trusted their decisions”.)

I was admitted on 1/07/07 and discharged on 1/10/07 “with staff approval”. I did not meet the scientific criteria, nor did any of my “drinking” behaviors create a reason in the minds of their experts to keep me there. There was no evidence of alcohol dependency or alcoholism, period. I skipped out of their facility and was quite proud I had done it. I had been cleared by the experts.

 It was one of the most invasive ordeals I have ever encountered, (the only thing worse was the physical examination I was put through when I was nominated to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis).

A counselor brings you into a holding area and instructs you in what will take place. He (or she, in some instances) assures you that the entire process is strictly confidential. A nurse then conducts a history and physical exam and assures you that the process is strictly confidential. Another counselor then arrives who searches your belongings for contraband and assures you that the process is strictly confidential. Finally you meet your personal counselor who informs you that the process is strictly confidential, but that she can’t get started until you give her a list of ten people (that’s right, 10) to contact in order to substantiate the information you give her- so much for confidentiality. By the way, they already have your money (more than $5000).

It’s then off to evaluations by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a social worker, and finally the individuals who administer psychological tests including personality tests, tests for depression, and basic verbal and coordination tests.

I was discharged in three days because the experts and their staff concluded that my behaviors and my history did not meet the criteria for alcoholism or alcohol dependency. That is of course after calling the ten people who know me best and inviting them in to my confidential evaluation. (It seems I am a knucklehead for having driven home after drinking with my friends, but that doesn’t make me an alcoholic.) So you would think that after hearing that, Mr. Karmatz and the Medical Board of California would have, at least, softened their approach: No such luck. Apparently Mr. Karmatz doesn’t trust the decision of his own experts. These were not my experts, they were the Medical Board of California’s experts and now they were ignoring their results because they did not get the answer they were hoping for. They were hoping to beat me down. They were hoping to get leverage to discredit a physician.

Before I had gotten off the plane from Newberg, OR, Mr. Karmatz had scheduled me for admission to another facility. He hadn’t even received the results from Hazelden yet (no one had because they had not been released) and over the phone, he was already trying to bully me. I calmly hanged- up on him (a process I hate) and contacted his boss in Sacramento.

Mr. Frank Valine, the administrator in Sacramento, again seemed reasonable. I had talked with him before and he remembered our previous conversation. He advised me to take it easy. Acknowledged that the thing to do was wait on Hazelden’s report, and he offered to discuss things once the report was forwarded to the MBC.

In spite of that conversation, I received a letter from Mr. Karmatz dated January 16, 2007 (figure11).

(I would really like to go on (and on) about Mr. Karmatz’s dishonesty and his manipulation of the system, but I’ll let our series of letters speak for themselves.)

My response is in figure12.

Two weeks later Mr. Karmatz was at it again (figure13.This prompted another even more ridiculous response from me (figure14). 

 But, our Mr. Karmatz is not only evil,relentless, and stupid; he does not recognize that each time he creates a document demonstrating his abuse of the truth, that I am in fact creating my own paper trail; only I’m copying three or four other people so that I am not the only one witnessing this.

 Three to four weeks later I received another letter from him (figure15). Again he referred to some unverifiable administrative review and requested once again that I begin the program at Cornerstone.

I then decided that I had had enough. I decided to document his abuses in a single document (figure16).

 

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