It’s been 2 years now since that fateful day I entered the ER of Emory Healthcare. Back then almost nobody else was speaking out publicly in blogs and/or video and although it was common knowledge within the chronic illness community that these kind of things happens, mostly it was only discussed in groups and on forums with little exposure to the open internet. Search yielded almost no trace of the undercurrent that was about to explode onto the scene as patients quietly compared notes. It seemed each patient this happened to was contained in their own little bubble of isolation and only 1 organization existed at that time to advocate on behalf of patients whom medical corporations targetted.
The mainstream media didn’t mention the thousands of cases that were routinely brushed under the rug and when approached tiptoed around the issue as though their bread was buttered on the wrong side of the law, so they dared not speak of it. That 1 organization that existed at that time was overrun with requests for help, not only from US citizens but from patients all over the world and its director was in the process of putting it on hold until she could complete a book on the subject.
Nobody else was really organizing around this insidious but deadly problem inextricably woven into the very fabric of our society, so it became my mission to get the ball rolling and start a concerted effort to change the law.
For those of you just now subscribing to my blog and/or coming across it for the first time, a short re-cap. I began having new symptoms outside of my already diagnosed chronic illnesses that progressed very quickly over the period of about 1 year in 2014-2015. They became so severe that I ended up hospitalized for 11 days because of severe near syncopal episodes, blood pressure wildly erratic, insatiable thirst and the taste of salt in my mouth, lower GI spasticity, severe myoclonus, other abberant movements, weakness, spasticity, and difficulty walking.
While in that particular hospital I was treated for Dysautonomia (a dysregulated autonomic nervous system) a condition which likely may have been causing some or even all of those symptoms. One of the doctors there sat down at my bedside one day during rounds and talked with me about my dysregulated blood pressure and the other symptoms I was having and about treating it with IV saline. I had no idea at the time that that was an accepted treatment for dysautonomia. I had not yet read about it, but he explained that he had tried this for a few days when I first came in to test out if it would get the symptoms under control and found that I started to stabilize.
He went on to say that there weren’t alot of options to treat this autonomic dysfunction but that he’d noticed when he took me off the saline that my symptoms got worse, so he would like to put me on it continuously to see if I would stabilize again. I did notice that I had started feeling better for a few days but had no idea why. When he explained this to me it made sense and so I agreed to it.
I was grateful to have something that worked. He put me back on it and wrote the order for it to be continuous, and sure enough, after about 4 more days I again began to stabilize. I was able to eat again, the thirst subsided, I was able to go to the bathroom more regularly, and the near syncope and dysregulated blood pressure became more stable again. I figured if that’s what it took to keep me stable, then so be it.
What I didn’t know is that this doctor failed to document what he’d said to me verbally and although he documented the order for continuous IV saline infusion, he did not state the reason nor the detailed rationale that he’d given me that he had tried this (what they call in medicine a “therapeutic probe”, something doctors sometimes do as a clinical diagnostic tool in which a positive response to a given treatment indicates that their diagnostic hypothesis was correct).
At the time my muscular symptoms were presenting like ALS so the admitting neurologist (another doctor) began the process of looking into that as a possible diagnosis. By the time I was discharged they were still unable to diagnose what was wrong but the admitting neurologisy suggested I go to some major medical center such as Mayo Clinic’s movement disorder clinic, since the system where I had been going for healthcare previously had not been aggressively routing me to appropriate referrals and I was rapidly becoming more and more disabled.
She told me that their facility (a smaller system than where I was getting all my outpatient care) was not advanced enough to do the more involved testing that would be needed to find out exactly what was wrong. I was discharged on a Saturday, the saline order was not written for home health as I was told it would be by one of the attendings, and just a few days later I ended up back in the same shape as when I went in. I awoke one morning feeling intensely faint even lying flat on my back, and no matter how long I waited for it to pass it would not.
I ended up back in the ER, this time at the hospital where all of my outpatient doctors worked, but instead of stepping up and expediting my care the facility (unbenownst to me) began building a malicious case to discredit me in my medical records to cover up the mismanagement of my condition(s) now that they were aware of my rapidly declining condition.
During that ER visit I suffered numerous human rights violations and nearing the end of my visit was physically assaulted and interrogated by an on-call neurologist who posited that there was nothing neurologically wrong (because I had not yet been given a diagnosis while I had been hospitalized at the other hospital, taking bits and pieces of the incomplete record from there out of context).
Soon it became clear that he’d been called in by administration to shake me down and to try to debunk me, not only the new illness(s) yet undiagnosed, but he pointedly questioned even my established diagnoses.
This was no legitimate neuro exam and as it progressed from undue roughness to an outright beating I was 100% sure that this was outside the standard of care and that he had not come to help me, but to maliciously sabotage me. In his mind I was wasting people’s time and resources and he was bound and determined to make me pay.
After he left the room he had his resident come in alone and slam her butt down on my foot (this is a very unethical practice that is done to find out whether a patient is faking). Not only was it reckless but misplaced given that although I was weak, I had never claimed to be paralyzed nor unable to feel, so it did hurt.
To make a long story as short as I can; the sadistic neurologist who’d abused me put libelous statements into my medical records and incited his resident and others to do the same, it got passed on from doctor to doctor, ruined the good working relationship I had with two other doctors I’d seen for years.
The corporation that employed these people refused to do anything to correct the records, discipline those who acted improperly, nor to protect me and my record as I had requested from any further damage.
My case became highly political and administration itself went after me using numerous people who worked for them to carry out their corrupt agenda. I was mercilessly harrassed by letter and even got a threatening phone call, my care suffered more and more because of the firestorm of loose gossip flying around the facility about me, administration admitted they’d been reading this blog and when I wouldn’t take all this lying down they got their Chief Medical Officer to send me a letter kicking me out. (Note that this is the largest and most powerful healthcare system in Georgia).
The libel in my medical records continues to hurt my ability to obtain unbiased medical care long after I’m gone from their clinics, and thus my health continues to decline.
I’d filed all pertinent grievance procedures and went through every proper channel, but to no avail. This corrupt facility got off at every turn.
Why? Well here’s the answer in a nutshell;
1) Regulators base their investigation solely on what’s written in the record regardless of whether it’s accurate, inaccurate, or blatant lies!
2) Apparently the law has a loophole in it which says basically that a doctor or facility can get away with libel in a patient’s medical record as long as the facility’s administration answers the complaint by stating that they “find the record as written to be true and correct.” They aren’t even required to have personal knowledge of the validity or invalidity of the defamatory statements in question. They can merely say it’s true with no proof whatsoever.
The above clause in currently law directly conflicts with federal anti-discrimination laws and I argue is therefore unconstitutional. Constitutional law was supposed to override administrative policy, but it was not enforced.
In addition; the facility receives federal funding and therefore cannot legally retaliate against by refusing service to a patient for making an official grievance, yet that is exactly what they did to me.
These two key points are what regulatory agencies ignored, so it became clear to me that the law must be made much clearer than it currently is worded, and that this particular type of abuse; gaslighting and blacklisting of patients must be given it’s own designation as an unequivocal hate crime.
I have set about deeply researching this topic to find out just how common this is and a petition was written with my story and my proposed legislation which would fill the current loopholes, and now over the past few years patients who have been abused in these ways are coming out in droves!
To read, sign, and add your story to our petition please click here. Your signature and story will be auto-forwared to Secretary Sylvia Burwell of Health and Human Services Committee (US Congress). Please be as specific as you can describing exactly what happened to you, state when it happened approximately (don’t just say something vague such as “This happened to me too” or “I have been abused by doctors” or “I have been blacklisted”, tell what was said, direct quotes if possible, and what was done if there was abuse and/or medical neglect. This way statistics can be compiled about specific types of human rights violations. We need to band together as a community and continue to hold those in positions of power accountable, to insist that state and federal regulators regulate, and that these inhumane and destructive practices are brought to an end.
This is my Christmas wish; not only for myself, but for all patients that similar atrocites have happened to, and those who may become victims of this type of abuse in the future. We must change and strengthen our civil rights laws!
I’ll be participating in #Blogmas this year. Over the next few weeks I will feature 1 patient’s horrendous story on this blog every week to raise awareness of these abusive practices in medicine.
Please share and leave a comment here on each corresponding blog entry so that we can continue to raise awareness and push our public officials/legislators to enact concrete solutions now! I hope to live to see the day when not one more patient is gaslighted, blacklisted, bullied, discriminated against nor abused by the medical establishment.
What better gift is there than to make it possible for patients to obtain the respectful and compassionate care they need for their medical conditions without fear, and to give them back their dignity.
This is my Christmas wish!
Thank you so much for writing this invaluable article! More people need to speak out and be heard!
Absolutely! There is strength in numbers. Too many still suffer in silence. We need to become a recognizable voting block that lawmakers cannot brush aside when considering their priorities in Washington.