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Dr Jan’s Blog Novel-Correcting the Record

It is not my way to share personal things. It is not so much that I am shy, or have anything to hide, I don’t (and certainly not now, everything is out there). I am just not one for small talk. And I will not use three words where one will do.

I am much more likely to search for the principle and motive behind the words, than simply focus on the words themselves. What exactly does he mean is how I think, and why?  I believe in the law of identity, and the words I use mean what they mean. There is no underlying, hidden meaning. But (and make no mistake about it) Harvey Levin and TMZ made this personal and as such requires some clarification on my part of personal issues.

Back to our story:

Then Harvey Levin and TMZ also reported (correctly, I might add) that I had had “more than one DUI arrest”. I’m not sure this had anything to do with Donda West’s surgery either, unless Harvey and TMZ were willing to offer proof that I, or one of my staff, were drunk the day of surgery (which of course is absurd; they wouldn’t and couldn’t). The first DUI occurred in September of 2002 (09/06/02) and the second occurred in March of 2006 (03/31/06) both more than two years earlier than Harvey attempted to make it an issue.

In the first instance, I was leaving a restaurant after having dinner with my attorney, and in the second I had taken a friend out to dinner for his birthday. In both instances I was wrong, period. I did have alcohol on both occasions (though I was far from drunk) and did get behind the wheel to drive home. Furthermore, having put a lot of serious thought into the matter, I have come to put things in a perspective that is a lot clearer than even the authorities want to deal with. There is no need to play “Russian Roulette” with the idea of whether I had one or two drinks, or whether I am at 0.07 or 0.09. Why even get involved in the game? Don’t drive period if you’ve had any alcohol (and if you really want to win, don’t ever take up the habit of drinking).

I have also come to believe that the crime is in putting other people in jeopardy, regardless of how much one may or may not have consumed. Clearly, alcohol, any alcohol, in your system slows your reflexes and that could never be good. My suggestion: don’t focus on whether you believe after drinking that you are okay to drive; focus on the idea that you do not wish to put your fellow citizens at risk for injury. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for them. That is my posture and that is it.

In the first instance unfortunately, my blood alcohol level (BAL) was never measured. I had blown into the breath analyzer five (5) times and it had failed to get a reading. I was cited because I refused a blood test after the five attempts. I had told the officer prior to heading to the station that I hadn’t been drinking four more than three hours and that I had had a beer with dinner. I will also point out that it was I who suggested the test and not the officer. There was no way I was going to be greater than 0.08. When nothing registered he panicked and called his supervisor.

In the second incident, my BAL was 0.09. In fact, in the second instance, a jury trial, the jury found me not guilty of DUI. I was convicted for being above 0.08 BAL. For the record though, if a problem drinker blows 0.09, he’s not on the way home; he’s on his way out to drink.

These incidences occurred years before I even met Donda West, and frankly had nothing to do with her surgery. This was mean spirited innuendo on the part of TMZ and Harvey Levin. They were telling less than half the story. They were compressing a lifetime into thirty second sound bites and suggesting that it had all happened yesterday. What they weren’t telling (because Harvey didn’t have that conversation with me that he had been using to get in the front door with every body else) was that after the second DUI, I decided to take a cold hard look at myself. Wynn Katz, one of my closes friends, thought that I had gone completely crazy. I argued that before I chalk this up to the police harassing another black guy driving around Beverly Hills at night, I would take a look at myself.

I contacted the Medical Board of California, Diversion Program Services, told them my situation, and arranged for an interview.  I met in Diamond Bar, California, with a Mr. Bernard Karmatz, M.S., LMFT. We filled out the necessary paper work and I consented to their agreement during the evaluation process figure 9. I also received confirmation of our meeting in a letter from Mr. Karmatz figure10 .

(Yet, from the beginning, there were already shenanigans on the part of an agent for the Medical Board of California. If you look closely at the Agreement, During Evaluation Process, Self-Referral you see that it is dated 12/14/06. However, Mr. Karmatz’s Personal and Confidential letter forwarded to me is dated October, 10, 2006, two months earlier than what actually occurred. At first I thought this was an innocent mistake on his part, but Mr. Karmatz, over time, proved he was less than genuine and that his actions may have been by design. He wanted our interaction to appear months before in order to justify his abuse of power that was to follow.)  

In his response, Mr. Karmatz states that he had “reviewed the case with Diversion Administration in Sacramento” and “they are directing” me “to stop (my) medical practice by the end of the regular business day on December 15, 2006”. None of that was true. It was Mr. Karmatz acting independently, and more importantly, abusing power. Furthermore, to stop a medical practice the next day is not only absurd it is impossible. (That’s why he predated his letter. He wanted it to appear that we had talked two months earlier than we actually did. That way his “request” seems reasonable.) What did he expect to do with patients post surgeries who were expecting to see their doctor?

In fact I didn’t receive his letter until December 17, 2006.

I contacted the Medical Board in Sacramento after receiving Karmatz’s letter to explain the situation. Frank Valine, director of the Diversion Program, agreed that Karmatz was a “little unreasonable” and that more time was needed to accomplish those things. I also pointed out that there were no complaints against me. I had been the one to volunteer for my own edification. Furthermore that neither now nor throughout my license history, that is the the past 13 years, had there been any complaints, none, where substance abuse had been suggested by a colleague or a patient.

I also, once again, reiterated that I had volunteered for the evaluation.

Dr Jan’s Blog Novel-Correcting the Record

Chapter 3:

The “media” hates a vacuum. It spells chaos and disaster for their industry-think dead air. They have to “feed that beast”- that twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week of air time. And they have to “feed” it whether they have content or not. Network news runs 30 minutes Monday through Friday, and for 30 minutes, Monday through Friday, they have to come up with something to report. If not, you get that 30 seconds to a minute at the end of a broadcast where the anchors are babbling about nothing. Imagine if that had to happen for the entire 30 mintues.

I would not break the law and, more importantly, violate my patient’s confidentiality by sharing privileged information with them; and so the press began to create stories on their own to fill that hour, or complete that column. They developed their own “angle” to the story and then went out to find things to support their take (many times to the detriment of the facts or the issue at hand).

The story got increasingly away from the the death of Dr. West and more and more malicious concerning me, in an attempt to draw me out. Imagine a bully drawing a line in the sand and daring the little kid to step over it.

The media has the “bully pulpit”. They use it to put their take on stories all the time, but their words carry no iron unless someone else is talking. And worse yet, if they get it wrong we end up fighting a war over a ten year period where thousands of people loose their lives. In this case no one, not one of them, had gotten the definitive story with the ultimate source, me. They therefore made it up on their own, without me.

Even his peers had started to recognize that Harvey had nothing, and had been lying all along. Larry King himself was the one most troubled. The word from CNN, who by the way invited me back on two occasions, was that Harvey will never be on their show again.” (Great… but I have to say, from my perspective, “way too late”.)

Sadly, there were plenty stories out there to tell.  They just were ignored. People with a chance to research the story and get the facts correct simply took the easy way out and chose to follow Harvey and sling mud, rather than define the issues, and inform the public. They could have investigated a number of issues surrounding plastic surgery: the nature of informed consent, unrealistic expectations on the part of a patient, the inherent risk of surgery or anesthesia, and many others, including malpractice suits and the training of doctors.

 (Keep in mind that “cosmetic surgery” isn’t a discipline. It simply refers to the “vanity surgery” that a number of specialties, trained differently, are engaged. Plastic surgeons do not have a monopoly on cosmetic surgery. Ophthamologists, otolaryngologists, dermatologists, general surgeons, and even gynecologists all perform cosmetic procedures.)

Instead, the media chose to follow Harvey’s lead. They chose to ignore the facts of the case, and focus gossip, issues that, in addition to having nothing to do with the death of Donda West, were already public record. But even then – and this is what’s important to understand –guided by false statements from Stephan Scoggins, HarveyLevin, and possibly the “litigation attorneys for the estate of Donda West and the surviving family members” they presented only half the story. 

 Here’s an example: Harvey Levin, again as lead dog, began by displaying the particulars of my divorce. I’m not sure this had anything to do with Dr. West -she wasn’t my ex-wife- but I am sure of his motive. He was trying to hurt the black guy on television-pure and simple.

TMZ reported that there had been a restraining order filed against me by my ex-wife’s attorney in a divorce preceeding. That is fair game since I chose to be on television, but I find this particularly disturbing because, if TMZ obtained that data from court filings, then they got the whole report and therefore, to present half the story is criminal. I support them saying whatever they wish to say, but I demand that they be accurate, not fair; just accurate.

Item 27 of that court document, which refers to personal conduct restraining orders, states very clearly in the first paragraph that “both parties shall be subject to personal conduct restraining orders, with both parties restrained and protected from the other party”. That seems to be pretty much clear as far as I can tell. It does not specifically speak to me, it applies to both parties.

 There was also a letter from my ex-wife’s attorney, filed with the court, which clearly pointed out that “as of tomorrow, January 29, 2007, I will appear in court and “continue and re-issue the temporary orders one last time to allow you and Ms. Field time to complete your preliminary declarations of disclosure”. Her attorney further goes on to say, “Once the above is completed, I will dismiss the entire domestic violence action as previously discussed”.

It appears that restraining orders are reflexly filed by attorneys in divorce cases. No lawyer wants a couple to reconcile before they have received a check (and I don’t blame them). But it is a bit dishonest for reporters telling a story to mislead the reader as to the context of the document.

For the record though, I did speak with my ex-wife’s attorney. He was willing to dismiss the restraining orders. He knew the allegations in it not to be true. Nonetheless, their game is to win, not engage in the truth and I understood his posture (though I angry at him for it). Oddly enough, I had explained to him that it was wrong to file it because it was untrue, but worst yet, I knew as a public figure, it would one day come back to haunt me. He had suggested that I petition the court to have the file sealed. I didn’t. I had nothing to hide. I was perhaps naïve.

Harvey and TMZ then dug up an ex-girlfriend, or in all fairness, perhaps she dug them up. I will not go into details because I think that’s silly. It had nothing to do with the matter at hand. Let it suffice to say that everyone supports a woman trying to distance herself from a man she doesn’t want, but sometimes a man doesn’t want that woman. And I didn’t. But I do think it’s important to point out once again that Harvey only told half the story. He didn’t report that that same woman wrote in an e-mail documented in court papers that “if you do not come back to me within 24 hours, you will wish you were never born.”

For the record, at this point, I wish she was never born.

Think of it. Is that a person who you would want to have a relationship with? The puzzling part for me is trying to understand exactly what her goal was. If in fact she wanted a relationship, then  threatening me with abuse if I don’t participate is clearly not the way to do it. And if you are a reporter telling a story, what has that got to do with Donda West’s surgery?

For the record, if you want a relationship with someone, be the person they want and need, and not the person they don’t. But, if you are Harvey Levin, a professional no less, is this where you go to validate your story. I don’t think so (unless your motive was to defame).

Dr Jan’s Blog Novel-Correcting the Record

Had Harvey Levin gotten his information from a conversation with me, he would have known the facts published in the coroner’s report. He would have known that there was no “mystery condition”. He would have known that a few months prior to her consultation with me, that my patient, as documented by the coroner, had been evaluated at Cedar Sinai Hospital for an episode of what she described as “chest pain”. He would have known that this patient, as indicated in the coroner’s report that is published on his own website, underwent a complete workup, including labs, X-rays, ECG’s, consultations with specialists, and the granddaddy of them all: a treadmill stress test.

He would have known that after all that, she was discharged with no medications, no follow-up, no heart disease, no lung disease, and no “medical condition”.

And for the record, he would have known as I have come to believe, that his Dr. Aboolian is a dishonorable, amoral, lying, publicity seeking moron, who is nothing more than a maggot trying to cash in on a disaster he was impotent to create.

 (I also can refer any of the authorities to the pulmologist in Beverly Hills to whom Dr. Aboolian says he referred this patient for preoperative clearance. I talked with him. I wasn’t interested in his analysis. I had examined the patient myself. I did, however, want to know why he hadn’t spoken up. He had the facts, knew I was being wronged, and said nothing. Even the most foul wrong, needs a disinterested virtue to sustain it.

I will offer though that on the surface, the pulmologist seemed a good guy, and I understood his predicament. I reassured him that I would not bring his name up in the matter (and so I haven’t). As a pulmologists however, he did confirm that at he time of his examination her lungs were clear, but that he would not comment on her heart: he is, afterall,  not a cardiologist.

If I read him correctly, he was troubled by doctors second-guessing other doctors in public without the benefit of the facts. That’s a further indication he should have spoken up as far as I am concerned.)

Back to our transscripts:

  Harvey Levin: So he sent her home and she died.

 Harvey Levin was wrong again. Donda West didn’t go home and die. She had more than a day to demonstrate her displeasure that her nephew had not done what he was “contracted” to do. According to Diana Pinckney, a member of Dr. West’s entourage upon discharge from Brentwood Surgery Center, “Donda was very angry when she arrived home because Stephan (Scoggins) had not gotten any of the things he said he would. There was no bed, no monitors, nothing.”  This is the fact that neither Brad Rose, “the litigation attorney”, nor Stephan Scoggins, the nephew, ever wanted anyone to hear.

      Furthermore, according to Scoggins’s own admission documented in the Coroner’s report; “She was in pain and was medicated with Vicodin in the morning, the decedent stated that she felt better and was able to ambulate without assistance. Mr. Scoggins stated that the decedent appeared to be doing well so he left for the day with the intention to return and spend the night with his aunt.”

          Here is the problem: Stephan Scoggins is a medical professional, an experienced nurse with an advanced degree. He makes the decision to leave his aunt alone 12 hours after surgery, with narcotics on board, in a house where there are no other health care professionals, none of the monitoring equipment he was contracted to get for her recovery, fails to get another nurse to cover for him and doesn’t alert the doctor.

Harvey Levin had certainly talked with Scoggins and Rose (that’s where he was getting his inaccurate information), but none of this, (that is, the facts that were all to telling about the truth) appeared in his reporting.

            To the untrained eye, the statement by Harvey Levin that “he sent her home and she died” was the climax to his appearance on Larry King Live. It wasn’t. In fact, my belief is that Harvey had looked so lost and unprofessional not because he was off point and needed guidance from Larry. Harvey was off point because the story Larry was trying to develop was not the story Harvey wanted to tell. Harvey Levin didn’t come to tell the story of his conversation with Donda West’s doctor, or for that matter to tell Donda West’s story. He didn’t have that conversation with Donda West’s doctor. Harvey Levin couldn’t care less about her or her family.

            Harvey wanted the camera pointed at himself, and he wanted to sling mud. And when it became evident to Larry King that Harvey had nothing to offer, no insight from the doctor who had actually worked on Donda West, Harvey panicked. He returned to who he is: not the informed insider getting the story no one else could get, but the naïve dupe who got it wrong.

 Harvey Levin’s actions and his reporting have led directly to the person being most responsible for the death of Donda West to walk away scot-free without any scrutiny from the authorities, or the press. As a journalist he has committed the ultimate sin.

            Harvey Levin’s reporting directly denied Donda West (and her son), the true victims in this affair, the possibility of any justice. He told the story wrong and got the rest of the herd to follow him. I, my staff, and the surgery center were cleared of any wrongdoing by the coroner and the experts (despite all the mud being thrown). Harvey didn’t report that either.

            And when the light was being turned –off of him, in the manner of a selfish, mean little child, Harvey started to pout and lash-out, pointing the finger everywhere but at himself for getting the story wrong.

But even with that don’t be too hard on Harvey Levin. He is only a pawn in this affair. He has no power to effect the political fallout that followed. Ask yourself: If the authorities had all this information up front, why did it take two months for an autopsy? Why didn’t the authorities just speak up and say, the doctor’s care and the patient’s care by the center was not below the standard of care, and close the matter? Who was weighing-in that dragged this thing on for two months?


Dr Jan’s Blog Novel-Correcting the Record

Dear Ms. Ethel: Thank you for your input, and question:”Funny I have only one question, where was Dr. West’s son in all of this?”

Unfortunately, to answer this appropriately, I would have to relay parts of some of the conversations I had with Donda West, and it’s neither appropriate nor professional for me to do that. I will not violate doctor-patient privilege.

I will say that in this matter Kanye West is a victim; he lost his mother, and deserves all our respect and support.

Let’s continue on with the story, by the time we’re finished, you will have answers to all your questions:


November 13, 2007-21:00 ET


Larry King:  “Harvey, What do we know?”

Harvey Levin: “Well…we know a lot…You   had mentioned Aboolian…he said to her… “You have a medical condition, and I’m not going to operate on you without this note.”

 But now we have a coroner’s report and not just Harvey’s word. In reality Harvey didn’t know a lot. He didn’t know anything about the patient, her supposed medical condition (or he would have said it), or the purpose of the so-called note. And apparently, neither did Aboolian. He claimed to be her doctor and yet he didn’t even get the information from a live person, which the coroner got after the patient was dead. At what level was his consultation? He didn’t even know, as was demonstrated in the coroner’s report on TMZ’s own website that the patient had been seen and cleared by physicians at Cedar Sinai Hospital.

 Harvey continues:  “We Know…I spoke with the doctor last night…Dr. Adams is sup…

Larry King (interrupting): You spoke with the doctor?

 Harvey Levin: “Yes…and he called me…I had left a message and he called me back…he was upset with Dr. Aboolian.

 Larry King, who has been doing this for more than fifty years, is trying to help Levin establish some credibility? It’s TV.  If Larry is going to keep his audience interested, he has to give them something immediately. Levin is fumbling and has yet to make a direct point for the audience, at least one that came from me. Larry, in a sense is saying come on Harvey; get to it. We brought you here because you said you talked with the doctor. You’re telling us about Aboolian and frankly, we don’t care about him. He didn’t do the surgery.

Larry King: So, what did the doctor say?

Harvey Levin never gets to it, because he doesn’t have it, and as I pointed out, when he finally does, he lies. I didn’t call Harvey Levin, and I certainly didn’t call him back. I called my answering service- a minute point I would add, but it speaks volumes as to the accuracy of the reporting. I also wasn’t “upset” with Aboolian. How could I be? I didn’t know him or what he was supposed to have said. The first I had heard of him was when Harvey mentioned him for “verification”.

 Harvey Levin: What we know happened is that she was in surgery for eight hours. It should have taken four.

(Pay particular attention to Harvey Levin’s last statement.)

 Let’s take a look at the anesthesia record, the operative note, or the nursing notes; all are a part of the Coroner’s report which was posted on TMZ’s website. All, including the narrative of the coroner’s investigator, demonstrate an operative time of less than five and a half hours (from 12:30 pm to 6:00pm). THE OPERATION TOOK FIVE AND ONE-HALF HOURS, NOT EIGHT. Harvey was wrong. Where was Harvey getting his information? He was not getting it from me the surgeon. He had misled Larry King and the rest of America by saying he had talked with me (which was true) but he was relaying information that clearly didn’t come from me (which is also very true). Harvey was using an old tabloid trick to fool the public and the rest of the media. By referencing his statements in conjunction with the declaration that “he talked with me”, Harvey, was attempting to paint a picture that his lies and opinions were, in fact, coming from me. I think it’s fair to say I would have known the length of the operation. I would not have told him something untrue to make myself look bad. If a surgeon is going to tell you about a procedure he performed, I can guarantee his recollection of time will be shorter, not longer, than the actual operation.

What was happening on national and worldwide TV, under the bastardization of our constitution and the First Amendment, and with the help of CNN and Larry King, was Harvey Levin defaming a surgeon with false information. Being a lawyer Harvey was careful to say “I am told that”, but being a whore he was suggesting that unsubstantiated, false and inappropriate conclusions on his part, based solely on uneducated conjectures, were in fact coming from a conversation he had with me, which is nothing more than a lie. More importantly, it demonstrates where all the information, that Brad Rose and the rest of West’s attorneys were trying to attribute to me, was coming from. If you are the family sitting in the waiting room, a five hour operation may seem like eight, cause you don’t get to see, or take into account the preparation. Harvey was reporting information coming from the family, and attributing it to me. He is a liar, plain and simple.

Harvey went on to say the surgery “should have taken four” hours.

Where did he get that? Not from me. In fact, now that we do have a coroner’s report, and know what procedures she had, I challenge Harvey or anyone else to query plastic surgeons and produce five who could get that done in less than five and a half hours.

 Realistically, I’m not certain the length of time a surgeon takes to do an operation directly correlates with how well it is being performed. Different surgeons have different routines. Yet Levin, in his surgical wisdom, concluded, then suggested to Larry King and a worldwide audience that it meant something was “drastically wrong”. Yet if you watch closely it becomes evident that Levin obviously didn’t know at this time exactly what procedures this patient had performed on her. And, if you didn’t know the procedure she had (because the doctor never discussed it with you), how could you possibly know how long it was suppose to take?

Worse yet, Harvey Levin’s lies would serve as the foundation (and the posture) for all stories to come. Mr Levin was wrong on all accounts, the length of the operation and what it meant. He presented his uninformed, unsubstantiated, and inaccurate declaration as fact. His reporting, his take, and his lies weren’t even in the same room as the truth.

But Harvey wasn’t done.  He bastardizes the notion that he has some higher authoritative source-which he never identifies- to lend credence to these uninformed, whimsical lies which have no basis in reality.

Harvey Levin: I’m told she should have gone to a recovery center… this is a pretty big operation. She didn’t, and she may not have gone because she had this condition…they may not have wanted her there because she was high risk.

 Harvey’s purpose here appears to be twofold: First by attributing obviously false statements to some unidentified someone else he is attempting to avoid any legal issues: after all, he didn’t say it; it is what he was told. And secondly, he’s attempting to establish credibility for his own lies, by reassuring us that this source somewhere is somehow credible.

The questions though for Harvey are as follows: Told by whom? What constitutes a pretty big operation? And if it is pretty big, what operation did she have? What condition does she have? Who are they that may not have wanted her there? And, if you don’t know what she supposedly has, how on earth could you have considered it high risk?

This last statement made by Harvey Levin on Larry King Live is so ridiculous and irresponsible it rises to the level of an anti-concept. It demonstrates once again that Harvey didn’t know a lot, and in fact didn’t know anything. He is not only lying to Larry King and his viewing audience, one has to wonder what lies he must have shared with the producers in order to get this far.

Dr Jan’s Blog Novel-Correcting the record

 Chapter 2.

I had suggested to the Sheriff’s Officer and the family of Ms. West that night at the hospital that an autopsy would be in the family’s best interest. We had to find out what exactly had happened to Donda. That is what people, who have done no wrong and have nothing to hide, do.

On the other hand, Scoggins, apparently with the help of Brad Rose, Kanye West’s entertainment attorney, was trying to mislead the authorities and suppress the facts. That’s what guilty people do. Donda West’s body had yet to be transferred from the hospital to the Coroner and already Scoggins (presumably with Rose’s guidance) was spinning lies.

The Monday following her death was anything but routine for me and my office staff. The day began with me alerting the receptionist and other staff members as to what had happened; I cautioned them all not to speak about it to outsiders. It was very important that we remained professional and adhere to all HIPAA requirements.

Payam Afsharian, our administrator and owner of Brentwood Surgery Center, and I had discussed Donda’s death over the weekend. Payam, who can only be described as a great spirit and a wonderful heart, was devastated. His partner, Rick, who is a retired attorney, was present that morning and we discussed the impact this tragedy might have on the center. Rick, I liked, but he also had that posture indicative of attorneys: opinionated without the burden of facts and quietly condescending. He knew he could spin a story to say what he wanted, and over the years, having worked as a governmental employee, I got the impression his opinion of most people wasn’t favorable. However, having worked in the government sector for so long, he prided himself on being an insider.

I performed a breast augmentation that morning and despite my ‘walking on eggshells’, my patient was quite candid; she offered her condolences and assured me that she was quite confortable with me as her surgeon. She had done her research, talked with other patients and seen their results. She was ready to go.

 Following the operation, my scrub tech, Larry, received a call from a Plastic surgeon in the community who had “heard about Donda West” and “wanted to know what had happened”. That surprised us all. It turned out she had received a call from a plastic surgeon that had been called by the West family physician. Larry offered that he had no idea. She had been discharged and was home at the time of her death. So let’s put the rumors to rest: everything reported in the press was coming from the West family camp, and not me, my office, or anyone affiliated with us. (And just for clarity’s sake, all the stakeholders including the family, the attorneys, the Medical Board of California, the Coroner, and the City Attorney knew it.)

In the afternoon, I saw two patients who, in addition to Donda West, had had surgery on Friday. One, a long term patient of mine made an interesting observation. She had been in the recovery room when Scoggins had finally arrived to recover his aunt. In the consultation room, this patient stated matter of factly: “Oh, come on Dr. Adams…you’re not that gullible are you. Anyone can see the nephew killed her.”

I was not prepared to make a statement like that and frankly; I thought it was a bit unfair, and not true. I’m still not willing to swallow it, but I can not deny that Scoggins’s lies to the coroner’s investigator made me question his motives.

Rick, Payam’s partner, also got a bit chattier during the afternoon. Apparently, he had talked with colleagues “in the know”, and now people in Washington D.C. were weighing-in. That was completely baffling to me and I dismissed it as Rick “showing off”. Why would anybody in the government, in D.C. no less, care about us. More appropriately, without the facts of the case, why were they weighing-in anyway?

Part of it I soon found out were the rumors circulating in the press. In the early afternoon, I once again called the staff together, explained Larry’s call, and tried to impress upon them the seriousness of the matter and the importance of us remaining professional. I particularly wanted to prepare them for the press. I wanted them to be cautious of what they said to people over the phone; I wanted them to be friendly and not defensive; and I wanted them to know that, in order to get a story, people in the press, reporters in particular, were not above misrepresenting themselves in order to get the story they wanted.

The advantage of books, over say, video, is perspective. While the actions, or inaction, on the part of Stephan Scoggins gets the story going, he is impotent to create the kind of “media circus” that surrounds our story. That required the help of some particularly mean and ruthless people in powerful positions.

Journalists want to “own” the story. They want to define the issue and set the tone. They want to be seen as the seasoned insider who not only gets the story first, but gets it right. They don’t want the official story; they want the real story. They want the angle to the story that no other journalist can get, and that is where the problem lies. The pressure to be first; the desire to be the one who defines the issue; and the need to be recognized for that, serve to create an environment where the journalist can find himself creating the story and not merely reporting it. Ego takes over, and the “lead dog” takes the pack of journalists who follow, down the same path.

      The lead dog, generally, but not always, is the industry insider who defines the issue, and writes or reports the story that will serve as a reference for subsequent reporters “picking the story up” for their markets. The lead dog wants to be seen by his colleagues as the one who spoke with the principals and therefore got the story no one else could get. Unfortunately for me, the lead dog was Harvey Levin, an attorney and producer at TMZ, and apparently an amoral, context dropping, grotesquely evil sociopath known to indulge an instinct for cruelty he should have outgrown in grade school. (I am angry about his distortions of the truth, the effects it had on the people I care about most, and I make no excuses for it. I am going to use his reporting, next to the facts to demonstrate my point.)

 He called my answering service Monday evening, two days after Dr. West’s death. He introduced himself and his company, neither of which I had ever heard of, and began to rattle off questions and statements for “verification”. I confirmed that I was indeed Ms. West’s surgeon. “Please be fair to this family” I offered “they just lost a family member”.

“I will be fair to you, doctor” he snapped back in that tone that lawyers use where “doctor” is French for “asshole”.

“You’re not listening” I interrupted. “I didn’t say me. I said be fair to this family.”

 Mr. Levin, it seems, is not one to be put off and kept attacking with a barrage of questions. I informed him that I didn’t want to be rude to him, and it is not my way to hang up on people, but that I wasn’t going to answer specific questions about my patient. He attempted to bait me using the technique of “verification” again, by suggesting that another surgeon who had also seen Dr. West, a Dr. Aboolian in Beverly Hills, who I did not know, had intimated to him that he “had told Ms. West that he would not operate on her without clearance because she had some medical problem”. (Apparently neither Harvey nor Aboolian had the information from Cedar Sinai that I had and they weren’t going to get it from me.)

“I do not know Dr Aboolian” I said, “but if he discussed that with you, it would seem a bit inappropriate to me.” I did tell Harvey, however, that if and when it became appropriate, and that if he was fair to the family, I would give him and his organization my first interview. He did neither.

            To my surprise, Harvey ended up the following evening on “Larry King Live” and without a story to peddle, he made one up. Harvey wasn’t interested in presenting the facts of this case-he had none. Harvey was interested in mudslinging, because he apparently has decided that in the world of celebrity, mudslinging is what people want. I’m okay with that, except we’re not talking about an actor going drinking with friends, we’re talking about a doctor and reputation is everything. If I am at fault, I deserve what I get. But I deserve to be gotten based on the truth and facts, not on someones lies or misguided opinions not based in fact.

             Unfortunately, Harvey Levin, on Larry King Live, is also where the rest of the world heard the story, and this is where and why it went so terribly wrong and off point:

Harvey Levin began by saying that he called me and then “I called him back”. That’s not true. He called my office after hours and so was connected to the service. He then misrepresented himself.  My service called to say that there was a man on the line saying he’s calling about a patient, but could not tell them “who the patient was, or the patient’s problem”.

 I asked them to put him through. The operator offered that “he’s lying” and I said I know, but we shouldn’t take the chance. It really could be a patient who needed me. “Besides,” I said, “we both know it’s some kind of reporter, and experience has taught me it’s always better to take their (that is the press) calls, be cordial, and establish some kind of dialogue. To avoid them for whatever reason is a mistake; they will simply make up a story without you”. (For the sake of clarity I might add that the service operators get very protective of doctors. They speak with you at the most trying times and at the strangest hours. They get to know you well. This operator was not stupid and she had also been privy to what was going on in the press. In a sense, I appreciated her concern and her willingness to protect me.)

What I could not appreciate, was what to follow.

Dr Jan’s Blog Novel-Correcting the Record

 As a courtesy, I sent a copy of the letter addressed to the Coroner to the lawyers of “the estate of Donda West and the surviving family members” informing them of the inaccuracies in the coroner’s report as offered by Stephan Scoggins figure 3.  The coroner’s office, as had been my experience, was diligent in getting back to me, and confirmed receipt of my letter figure 4.

Mr. Brad Rose, of Pryor Cashman LLP in New York City, the “litigation counsel for the estate of Dr. Donda West and the surviving personal representatives of Dr. West” (his words, not mine- I suspect you only call yourself a litigation attorney, if you expect to litigate) was not so diligent. I couldn’t understand why. He had opened the lines of communication by threatening me right after Dr. West’s death, and now, with the facts trickling to the surface seemed to be back-peddling. It took my letter, a letter from my attorney, and four telephone calls to even get him to acknowledge receipt of the letter.

       Mr. Rose, however, seemed to be “posturing” and despite my candor, seemed to be looking for some advantage. His motivation in this matter was less than genuine. My lawyers had warned me about talking with him, but I knew I had done nothing wrong. I didn’t fear litigation. I would have welcomed it. I would have welcomed once and for all an opportunity to present the facts in a fair, opened forum, instead of letting reporters with an “angle” destroy the facts. My point to Rose was simply this: Let’s stop the bluffing and all lay our cards on the table.

            But I knew Mr. Rose to be disgenuine because I had told him up front my concerns about Mr. Scoggins’s negligence in abandoning his aunt so soon after her surgery a few days after her death. I understood that professionally he preferred to speak with an attorney, but at that time I did not have one, (I didn’t need one) and under those circumstances it was reasonable for him to continue talking to me. Hell, except for the facts, it would have worked to his advantage in the event of “litigation”. But notice, no litigation ever came, and that speaks volumes.

               I had forwarded another letter to Mr. Rose dated April 8, 2008 figure 5. I was getting frustrated with his silence because I had been more than fair and genuine with him about the particulars of the case since he represented the estate of Donda West. I felt he was also lying (much like Scoggins) and frankly, at the time, I was unable to understand why. One of the advantages of being a lawyer is that you are not the one who is on trial. Why would the lawyer have to lie?

       Shortly after that, my attorney, Michael Payne, called to inform me that he had received a letter addressed to him from Mr. Rose figure 6. After reading it, I went through the roof.  This guy, this Brad Rose, was continuing to be a “prick”. In our conversations, Mr. Rose pointedly denied representing Stephan Scoggins. His letter clearly demonstrates the opposite. If Scoggins was not his client, why does he care what I have to say to the Coroner, or anyone else for that matter, about Stephan Scoggins? (I have come to believe that it was because Mr. Rose was in it from the start; that he had talked with Scoggins prior to Mr. Scoggins’s misrepresentation of the truth and his role in his aunt’s care to the coroner’s investigators.)

              I immediately tried to call Rose. He wouldn’t take the call. I sat down to write him a very nasty (but professional) letter (which, by the way, I never sent to him) figure 7.    Mr. Rose had heard enough from me. I saw no benefit in being rude. 

              There was however, one more haunting question: Why would Scoggins need a lawyer, anyway? The answer: Mr. Scoggins, in my opinion, lied to the Coroner’s investigator because as a former police officer in the state of Oklahoma and as a licensed nurse in the state of California, he knew that abandoning his aunt was negligent homicide.

            Yet why was Brad Rose, “the litigation attorney for the estate of Doctor West and the surviving family members”, representing, and protecting, Stephan Scoggins, the person I believed and had intimated to him to be negligent in her care (as did the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office). That seemed like a conflict of interest to me.

My communications were with the Coroner and his investigators-not “publishing false and defamatory statements”. My statements were documented. Mr. Rose was the only one “publishing false and defamatory statements”, but why? Why was Mr.Rose fighting so hard to keep me quiet? Why was Rose protecting Scoggins? Why was a Dr. Aboolian not subjected to the same scrutiny by Rose? (He was discussing the case in public, with a chart, unchecked. He also had offices in the same building in Beverly Hills as Rose’s firm.) I believe that the answer is twofold: first, Rose didn’t really care about Donda West’s privacy, that was only a smoke screen; and secondly, what he was trying to orchestrate was getting his story out the way he wanted it told, an entertainment lawyer to the end.

            We know that Stephan Scoggins was not being truthful. We know that because he lied to the coroner’s investigator. We know that Mr. Scoggins spoke with the investigator by phone, but what I learned in a conversation with her, in an effort to correct his deceptions, was that he had called her that Sunday evening, and not the other way around. Stephan Scoggins had initiated the call to the coroner. That was to gain control of the story. That, I believe was Rose’s influence. 

             At the hospital the night before, the sheriff had informed both me and Stephan in the same conversation that the coroner would be calling us. There was no need to call them.Yet Stephan had reached out to him, it now became evident, because he (and Rose) wanted to control the dialogue; and, more importantly, didn’t want Diana and Nubia, the two witnesses to his negligence, talking with the authorities. The investigation and the dialogue surrounding the case would have looked much differently had the authorities and the press been subjected to the truth. Unlike him, or me, these were the only two people who had been with her the entire time following her surgery. They were privy to what everybody did. Scoggins and Rose couldn’t have them talking to investigators.

              I, on the other hand, was suffering from the “curse of knowledge”. I had the facts. Because I knew them, they appeared so obvious to me. And yet everyone else just couldn’t, or didn’t see them. At the same time, I was unable to educate anyone else about the facts due to physician-patient privilege, not even my mother, who by now had grown more miserable than me. The facts of the case were being ignored, or at the very least buried, so as not to complicate the stories being told, and again, no one knew it but me, and I wasn’t being allowed to talk.

            People were looking for someone to blame-it is our nature- but all they were getting was conjecture and lies. The fact is however, that no amount of truth, or facts, was going to get in the way of what they wanted to believe. Unfortunately, that also was not going to be a problem, TMZ had taken the lead and their take on it had nothing to do with the truth, or facts. The conversation changed abruptly. They were not interested in what had happened. They were interested in “gotcha” journalism. What followed was riddled with lies, falsehoods, and half truths taken out of context to smear me. It did not speak well of “journalism”.

Dr Jan’s Blog Novel-Correcting the Record

Further along in the coroner’s report, Stephan Scoggins reported that “the decedent (Donda West) was left with caregivers, Diana and Nubia, who had been referred by Dr. Adams.” The operative words here are “caregivers” and “referred by Dr. Adams”.

That could not be further from the truth; it was a lie: first of all, neither of these people had been referred by me or any member of my staff to Ms. West as caregivers, because neither one is a caregiver, nor do they have any medical background whatsoever that I know about. I had referred Ms. West and her family to Nirvana, an after-care facility in Beverly Hills (and telephone conversations, along with conversations with the owner of the facility confirmed this to authorities during the course of their investigation), but she had opted to be taken care of by Mr. Scoggins, a registered nurse with an advanced degree, but more importantly, her nephew, at her home.

Nubia was Dr. West’s personal assistant (and surely Mr. Scoggins knew that). Diana was a former patient of ours with whom Dr. West had formed a friendship (and surely Mr. Scoggins knew this also).  Neither of these individuals were caregivers, and certainly not caregivers referred by my office.

 In his statement to the Coroner’s representative investigating the death of Donda West, Stephan was misleading the investigator. (I might also add that because we were not privy to the Coroner’s report until it was publicly released two months later- along with everyone else- Mr. Scoggins’s lies served as the basis from which the Coroner, the press, the Medical Board of California, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney operated.)   Why would Mr. Scoggins feel that it was necessary to lie to the Coroner’s investigator? … People only lie when they feel they have something to hide. What did he feel the need to hide?

If a prospective patient wishes to speak with former patients who have had similar procedures, we try to arrange it so that they can get together. The patient can then get an informed perspective on how other people were treated by us, and not just our word on it. Diana was not the only previous patient of ours with whom Dr. West had communicated. Nonetheless, they had hit it off and Diana had apparently committed to spending time with Ms. West in her immediate post-operative period. The point is that neither individual was referred by our office as caregivers.

I corrected this statement with Ms. Denice Bertone, RN, the coroner’s investigator as suggested by Ms. Hollis. Ms. Bertone’s reply: “I knew he wasn’t being truthful. Why would a doctor refer as caregivers two people who aren’t even LPN’s? People lie to us all the time, but I can recheck my notes. I’m pretty sure that’s what he said…My job is to take the statement as people give it.”

 She rechecked her notes and confirmed her statement.

Mr. Scoggins had deliberately lied to the Coroner’s investigator only one day after the death of his aunt to hide his negligence in her care (and I suspect to conceal it from other family members and the authorities).

 Even more alarming, Mr. Scoggins, on his own website, had reported that he was a police officer in the state of Oklahoma and surely, a former police officer knows that lying to the coroner is wrong, if not a crime.

Mr. Scoggins went on to state that “the decedent (Donda West) appeared to be doing well so he left for the day with the intention to return and spend the night with his aunt”. Yet that wasn’t his job. He wasn’t supposed to “return and spend the night with her”. His job was to watch her at a time when she could not fend for herself. He was his aunt’s primary caregiver at that time. He knew that when he left, he had left her with no one with the knowledge of what to do, period; let alone in the event of an emergency. As the primary care giver at that time, he had abandoned his aunt: nothing short of medical negligence.

When Mr. Scoggins left, according to him, “the decedent (Donda West) did not appear to be diaphoretic and had no symptoms of peritonitis or bleeding”. Great assessment, but it only confirms that “neither surgery nor anesthesia mishaps contributed to her death”. She is doing quite well the next day.

Mr. Scoggins further stated that” the decedent had no known cardiac problems or peptic ulcer disease”. (That is of particular importance because throughout the media frenzy, reporters refer to Dr. West’s heart problems. For the sake of completeness though, I am not sure we can tie our arguments to anything he has to say, since we can clearly see that it is riddled with lies.) However, it is important to point out, as also noted by the coroner’s report, that the decedent’s previous medical history included evaluation for an episode of left chest and arm pain on January 10, 2007 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. No prior history of heart disease was noted. (And on this, I believe, we can rely.)   

The decedent indicated a previous history of elevated cholesterol, and hypothyroid disease treated with Synthroid. Chest x-ray and cardiac workup were unremarkable. (Again we have a cardiac workup done at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the premier cardiac facility in Southern California that was unremarkable. I knew this, the coroner knew this, but it is interesting that the physicians the media were quoting, as having been the other physicians she had had a consultation with, did not.) That was another fact omitted in the stories that followed.

Dr Jan’s Blog Novel- Untitled:Correcting the Record

   Dear Glodean White: Thank you for your comment. You are right: a mother’s wisdom and I hear you clearly. Hate is too strong a word, and it is not accurate. As a doctor, I always want to encourage people and give them information they can use. Both pathology and radiology are integral to that and medicine wouldn’t work without them. What was “frustrating” was to run a test and not be able to give the patient a direct answer. I stand corrected, and that thought will be addressed.

On with the story:

 Why, if the authorities (and the West family and their lawyers) knew the facts all along, were inaccurate and frankly false statements occurring in the press? From where was the meanness coming? And, more importantly, who was behind it and what was their motive?

We all sensed that Donda West did not have to die, but in the end, we were denied closure, and she was denied justice, because the theories surrounding her death did not match the facts. The authorities responded to the media. The media had them looking in the wrong place. And unfortunately, when the media lost interest, the truth died too. Donda West, as a result, never got her day in court. Donda West never got justice.

Stephan Scoggins, Donda West’s nephew and her primary caregiver at the time, was a likely candidate figure2.

Unbeknownst to me or my staff, he had reported to the coroner’s investigator that he had “received a telephone call on the day of surgery from the decedent’s (Donda West) friend who was concerned that she (Ms West) was not waking up soon enough after surgery, so he responded to the surgery center”.

He may, in fact, have received a call from any number of family members who were present in the waiting room, but not for that reason.  We were waiting for the nurse, Mr. Scoggins, to arrive so that the patient could be discharged to the person who was responsible for her post-operative care. That person was Stephan Scoggins.

I was told by the woman with Donda, who introduced herself as her sister, Ms Roberson, and my staff, that Mr. Scoggins was late because he was getting equipment and preparing Dr. West’s bedroom for her recovery. That, supposedly, was why he was late in picking her up. (The operative word here is “supposedly”, because we- my office staff and the staff of Brentwood Surgery Center, along with the Coroner, the nursing board, the Medical Board, and the City Attorney- will learn later that he didn’t do any of that. He did not get the equipment, including monitors, a bed, wheelchair, and supplies that he promised he would, nor was any of that waiting at Dr. West’s home when they arrived there post-operatively.) He had consented, and contracted, to care for her post-operatively, and had mislead the patient, the doctor, the staff at Brentwood Surgery Center, and the authorities (along with the press) as to what had transpired.

Nonetheless, do not judge him too harshly (at least not yet). His is a natural human response to a tragedy. Most humans initially, look to blame someone else. What three-year-old has not pointed the finger at a sibling when a parent asked “who broke the glass”?

Furthermore, our purpose here is not to judge what someone did or did not do; our purpose is to choose who we want to be in response to what they did. I choose to be loving. My goal is merely to to present the facts, and own them, so that my choice is based in reality.

According to Diana and Nubia, two of the women who went home with Donda West following her surgery, “Dr. West argued with her nephew that night concerning his failure to secure those things”. What is significant is that the primary post-operative caregiver was negligent in his responsibilities and lied to the Coroner’s investigator about it. The question is why? Why did he have to lie? And more importantly, why was he never called-out on it (by the authorities or the press)?

It is our policy to discharge patients to their caregivers so that post-operative orders can be given directly to those people responsible for the patient’s post-operative care. The problem with Mr. Scoggins’ statement is that one, it is not true; and two, it is a bit too casual. Stephan Scoggins, PhD. was not a concerned bystander in this matter. He is very much an active participant. It was Mr. Scoggins who convinced his aunt that he would take care of her post-operatively and therefore did not need an aftercare facility; and it was Mr. Scoggins who convinced his aunt to sign an advanced directive giving him power of attorney over her affairs in the event she could not direct her own care.

        This, as was my duty, I shared with the coroner and his investigators. It is public record. I will not comment on confidential conversations between me and Donda West. Nor will I comment on the particulars of her care. That belongs under the umbrella of doctor-patient privilege and should stay there.

            I will, however, comment on inaccuracies and false statements made in the public record, as is my duty.  According to Robin Hollis, Senior Investigator with the Medical Board of California, and confirmed by my attorney, Thomas Byrne, I am required by law to ensure that accurate and truthful information is given to the Coroner.  

Mr. Scoggins did finally arrive at the surgery center around 7:15 p.m. dressed in a short white lab coat, which he tugged at as he stood erect in front of me in the waiting room. “I’m Dr. Scoggins” he announced.

“Great to meet you” I said. 

“I’ll be taking care of Donda”. We then walked a few steps to the receptionist’s counter, I opened her chart, and we began to discuss her post-operative care. “I want to apologize for my family” he offered quietly. “They can be a little crazy”.

“Oh…they’re fine” I said. “They’re just concerned. They don’t really know what’s going on; they’re kind of in the dark. They’ve been here all day and just getting a bit antsy; they’ve not been a problem”.

Then Mr. Scoggins said the weirdest thing: “Donda and I,” he began, “are the backbone of this family, and I didn’t want you to get the wrong idea”.

I hadn’t gotten the wrong idea -at least I didn’t think so. I didn’t care that he and Donda were the backbone of the family, or that he was somehow ashamed of his relatives. I just wanted a seamless transfer of my patient to the person responsible for her care, period.

Standing approximately 5’11” tall, thin, well-dressed, and quite professional, he asked the appropriate questions concerning the post-operative plan for his aunt (which I felt demonstrated a reasonable amount of knowledge) and I had no reservations about discharging her to his care at that time. In fact, I thought it would be great for my patient to be home, with all the bells and whistles of a recovery room, where the only germs she might encounter were her own, and even better that the nurse taking care of her had a vested interest in her well being, in addition to experience and an advanced degree, a Phd. no less.

Stephan Scoggins’s subsequent behavior seemed to support the notion that I was wrong about him and his intentions. His aunt was not the priority for him I believed her to be. He was late picking her up (which I dismissed as part of being in LA); he did not prepare her room as he said he would; and he left her alone the next morning. The question that begs to be asked here, again, is why? Why didn’t he secure those monitors and things? Why did he leave his aunt alone so soon after surgery? If he couldn’t do what he said he would do for her, why would he let her go home? She could have gone to an aftercare facility. And, more importantly, why didn’t he alert any other health care professionals, including myself that he would not be with her that next day?

All, pretty disturbing questions, but even more disturbing is that the lies occurred during his conversations with the authorities, and worse, that they served as the starting point for the investigation and remained uncorrected for two months.

Dr.Jan’s Blog Novel- Untitled:Correcting the Record

It was cold, bone-chilling cold, and wet, and…dark… eerily dark. Eerily so because it was only 3:45 in the afternoon. Ice, that had formed on the bare lifeless branches of the trees, dripped black moisture onto the mirror-like streets below. The street lights, prematurely on, only added to the scene as they cast long, imposing shadows on buildings and behind cars.

 The snow had long since retreated, leaving behind intermittently spaced piles of black soot that just as well could have been coal from the mines just down the road from the tiny house. The wind whistled, then screamed, scratching at the windows, clawing at the walls demanding to be let in.  In the distance the howling of wolves was all that pierced the darkness. Such are the winter days in southwestern Ohio.

Scratch that… I wasn’t there. I wasn’t in Ohio. A great way to start a story, but this was not how this one started. In fact, the weather only seemed that way, so dismal, because over the past two months I had been subjected to  an “electronic lynching” by the press that could only be described as criminal. This day, I was actually in Beverly Hills, California, and in reality it was 72 degrees and sunny, a perfect day from the standpoint of the weather.

“Dr. Donda West’s death was not the result of an anesthesia or surgery mishap.” That was the Los Angeles County Coroner’s representative speaking with reporters who had assembled on the steps of the coroner’s  offices, and he could not have been any clearer than that. The surgeon was not at fault. But no one heard that, at least none of the reporters assembled there. Worse, they never reported it. Here was the most important point of the entire story, the one based on facts and two months of research by the experts in the field, and it never made it to print. That simple fact was ignored in every story to follow, and had not even been considered as an option in every story preceding it.  Statements not based in fact  were given a life of their own, but the one statement of the experts, the one formulated after two months of research and analysis, got none.

That was my first mistake. When you are innocent you believe the facts will speak for themselves. They don’t. Facts are like bricks used to build a house. The final result is how you stack them, not the bricks themselves.

Nonetheless, I appreciated his candor. For me as a surgeon, the media circus leading up to that statement was my worst nightmare come true. A patient, not under my direct care, had died about 28 hours after surgery. It could have been worse from my perspective – she could have died on the operating room table, in the recovery room, at our surgery center, or within the first 24 hours post-operatively, but she didn’t. She died at home, more than a day later, under the care of her nephew, an experienced nurse with an advanced degree in public health, a doctor.

The conclusion of the Coroner, along with experts from USC, UCLA, and the private pathologist that I had suggested that the family hire to protect their interests, came as no surprise to me. I had been informed of their conclusions a few hours earlier. In fact, as the surgeon of record, I had been in contact with them throughout the entire ordeal. I had tempered my involvement, and my opinions, so as to allow them to do their work, but make no doubt about it: I had my opinions.

My office had been more than forthcoming with the chart and more than one employee at the coroner’s office had commented on how professional and honest we had been. “Dr Adams” Denice Bertone, the nurse in the Coroner’s office had said, “It is such a pleasure working with you. Most physicians must think we’re stupid down here. We get charts and records that have been “doctored-up” all the time. I just want to thank you for being so honest and forthright. I know this was very hard for you.”

She was wrong. The past two months had been a lot worse than hard. It had been pure hell, period. My personal and my professional lives were publicly mutilated by conjecture, falsehoods and innuendo printed in the popular press. My world was being torn down around me and what remained was simply rotting with each passing moment.

As I sat at the desk in my office staring off in the distance in thought, out of the corner of my eye I could see the lights of the telephone blinking. That was nothing new. For the past few weeks they had remained that way from the time we arrived in the office at seven in the morning until everyone had left at end of the day, only to repeat itself tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Patients were calling to cancel surgeries and request refunds; the media was calling for interviews; and “crazies” were calling… simply to be calling. They demanded to be heard.

The call  was from Dr. Louis Pena, the pathologist who had actually performed the autopsy on Donda West, and not one of his administrators or assistants. I sat staring at the walls, when a gentle tapping at my door aroused my attention. Stephanie, my personal assistant, stuck her head around the door. With a slight smile, and a sort of sucking motion from her lips that made an audible snap, she whispered, “It’s the Coroner on line one”.

“Thanks”, I said… but she did not move. I rolled my eyes, “I’ll let you know what he says.” With that she was gone and I turned to pick up the receiver, “Dr. Adams”.

“Oh, Hi Dr. Adams, this is Dr Pena.”

“Hey, how are you?”

“Fine, thank you…Well… I have very good news for you. Ed Winters is about to announce the conclusions of the Coroner to the press, and we wanted you to hear it from us. The team has concluded that Ms. West’s death is certainly not the result of surgical or anesthesia error. I know that comes as a relief. And I just wanted to thank you again for being professional.”

“Thank you” I said… “Is Winters going to say that…That specifically the cause of her death was not surgical error?” At that point it really did matter to me what he said. Without solid information on the case, the press, lead by TMZ, had decided the story lie in personal attacks on me. The facts would give me the opportunity, as a physician, to defend myself and my reputation.

Incidentally, that was my second mistake: being a doctor.  As a physician, I am not afforded the same protections as other citizens when my reputation is challenged. Both Federal and State confidentiality laws prevent me from a public airing of details, but allows clients and the media to make virtually any statement they want regardless of its validity. So long as someone said it, it can be repeated and printed. Worse yet, if you are also considered a public figure like me, assailants get away with making false public statements under the guise of stimulating conversation in a public forum. Regardless of the facts, I have to defend statements made by others, not the truth.

“I can’t say for sure exactly what he’s going to say” Pena offered “…but…if that helps and I can get to him, he might include something like that, but I make no promises. I just wanted you to hear it from us.”

“What’s the official cause of death?” I asked.

“I don’t think anyone can really say. There are a number of possibilities.”

“There are a number of possibilities?” I thought. “What does that mean?  I hated pathology (as a student), and that is why. I hated people who always hedged their bets. Radiologists were like that also. I understood their argument, they were looking at shadows, but a pathologist had tissue in front of him; maybe not live tissue, but at the very least, the real thing.”

 “I think it was aspiration,” I offered quickly. My first opportunity in two months to say what I believed was not going to be denied. “I think they fed her, gave her narcotics, and then put her in bed with the head of the bed flat to sleep. So she’s sleeping, got narcotics on board that suppress her gag reflex, aspirates her stomach contents, and a few minutes later her heart stops. She dies from respiratory arrest, plain and simple.”

“Well… yes… you’re right… I think it’s fair to say that that scenario is as plausible as any of the others… maybe more.”

“Hmm…well, thanks again for the call,” I said. “Good bye”.

“Good bye”.

Stephanie was back in the office before the indicator light on the phone went out. “Well?” she asked.

“Well what?” I joked. This time she rolled her eyes… “He said their evaluation shows that ‘neither surgery nor anesthesia errors were the cause of Donda West’s death’.”

“That’s good, right?” she asked.

“That’s very good… But the fact remains, we still have all these patients who have cancelled; there’s no money coming in… and in fact, I’m reimbursing all the surgeries we had scheduled for November and December (our busiest months). It’s not going to be a great holiday…I don’t know if the center can survive this. It’ll take us six months to a year just to get people to start considering coming back. And I can bet you that you won’t read any of it in any paper, or hear about it on the news. None of these people are now going to say: “Oh, never mind, we were wrong; it wasn’t the doctor.”

They didn’t, but the coroner made his opinion known: The Los Angeles County Coroner, in his capacity as the final authority in the matter, filed a complaint with the Nursing Board of the State of California: figure 1. In his complaint, the coroner (along with the other experts) clearly specified who he thought was negligent in the death of Donda West. But you didn’t read that anywhere either. The question is why?

 Understand, however,  “this is not a story about Donda West”. Physician-patient privilege will remain intact. Her death serves only as a catalyst for the action that follows. 

I will document the things I have to say. There will be no hearsay 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.