MAY 16, 2011
“Ticked Off Doctor Sues Patient’s Son for Comments About Bedside Manner”
Trisha Torrey, ABOUT.com GUIDE
In April 2010, Kenneth Laurion, a man in his mid-80s from Duluth, Minnesota, suffered a stroke. His doctor, Dr. David McKee, must have been a real S. O. B. – abrupt and rude at the very least.
As a result, Mr. Laurion’s son, Dennis, contacted the powers-that-be to complain. He recounted his experience to groups like the American Academy of Neurology, the American Neurological Association, two physicians in Duluth, Minnesota (where all this took place) the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee and St. Luke’s hospital, and others – 19 in total.
Dennis Laurion told those groups that Dr. McKee (quoted here from the Duluth News Tribune): . . . “seemed upset” that Kenneth Laurion had been transferred from the Intensive Care Unit to a ward room; that McKee told the Laurion family that he had to “spend time finding out if [the patient] had been transferred or died;” that McKee told the Laurions that 44 percent of hemorrhagic stroke victims die within 30 days; that McKee told the patient that he didn’t need therapy; that McKee said it didn’t matter that the patient’s gown was hanging from his neck with his backside exposed; that McKee blamed the patient for the loss of his time; and that McKee didn’t treat his patient with dignity.
In return, Dr. McKee got ticked off, defended his actions – and sued Dennis Laurion for making libelous statements.
But the judge dismissed the suit citing the fact that there was no evidence to show the doctor had been harmed, and stated that nothing defamatory had taken place – that his statements seemed to be more about an emotional discussion of the issues.
So what’s the take-away for those of us who have had our own run-in with doctors? Plenty. First – most of us have had our own experiences with arrogant and condescending doctors – doctors who are so full of themselves and their own lives that they treat us like dirt. They need a cummupence of their own. (For them I wish the karma of their own health challenges to give them some flavor of exactly what they are doing to their patients. No harm wished – just karma. They seem to learn really quickly that way. )
And yes – we have the right and perhaps even the obligation to complain, just as Dennis Laurion did. I’ve written before about how it’s incumbent upon us to make sure the right people know how poorly we were treated. It’s the only way to instill the necessary attitude adjustments. (If you think about it, I’ll bet Dr. McKee will be a little more thoughtful the next time he wants to heap his S. O. B. -ness on another patient or loved one!) The only caveat is that we must recount exactly our experiences – not shade or embellish them. Report problems as if you were a journalist describing the experience – not the emotions, just the facts.
But I also remind you that nice doctors are not the same as competent doctors – and (as one of my twitter doctor friends reminds me) – competent doctors aren’t always nice. Sometimes we just have to recognize that getting good medical care might require us to put up (in the short term) with this kind of arrogance, no matter how difficult and disconcerting it might be. That doesn’t make it right. It just is what it is.
But the bottom line, to me, is this. . . . decent medical care requires a variety of skills from our doctors including the mechanics of medicine, and the respectful communications that go along with that, too. By reporting the transgressions of Dr. David McKee to those many groups he interfaces with, Dennis Laurion did Dr. McKee’s future patients a favor.
Next time around, Dr. McKee will think twice before he accosts his patients and their families with his insulting and callous behavior. And that’s as it should be.
(1) Bob James, M.D., J.D. says:
Trish: Is there some proof of what actually happened that was not reported or are we just assuming that the doctor is an S.O.B. and that the patient’s family is correct? Many “doctor stories” are certainly reported with that slant and assumption nowadays!
(2) Reddit Reader says:
You can Google “if you transferred or died,” to see what the doctor said. .
(3) Reddit Reader says:
You can now read the judge’s order.
(4) Steven Kussin says:
Nice is good Smart is better. Nice+smart=best. The best of anything is rare. Brains trump nice
(5) Eileen says:
We have to assume that what the patient’s son said was actually what hapened. People don’t waste their valuable time making false complaints like that. Especially when their family member is sick. I believe the doctor said all those things.
(6) Sciquest says:
Whether the doctor said those things isn’t in dispute – doctor acknowledged he said them. Problem is that while the doctor thought he was being humorous, the family was understandably in a vulnerable state and took offense. Doctor should probably try to take it down a notch and be more sensitive, but after reading the links, I don’t think he was being as big a bastard as the family perceived. I can put up with a gruff or crusty doctor, but where I draw the line is when s/he (actually never a she in my experience though) is narcissistic – as defined by defensive, evasive or unwilling to explain things, doesn’t answer questions, unwilling to spend appropriate time in consultation before a major procedure, omitting important details, judgmental. This is a doctor who will completely freeze you out if you have a bad outcome. Sadly, I learned this from experience. I’m willing to put up with arrogance so long as the doctor has the chops to back it up. If everything goes perfectly, perhaps they’ve earned the right to be a bastard. But when they make a mistake, in my mind they lose the right to be arrogant. If it’s surgery, you need to figure out what kind of person you’re dealing with *before* your major procedure. If it’s ongoing care and the doctor’s a jerk, you’re lucky you can probably just move on to another doctor.
(7) Sciquest says:
Oh, and comment #4, (”Nice+smart=best”) reminded me that often it’s the prickly ones who aren’t really the best at what they do; they’re on the defensive all the time and work very hard at projecting an air of superiority. I often find that it’s the truly great ones who are much more approachable as they aren’t easily threatened and they don’t have anything to prove. I perceived this pattern amongst software developers as well as doctors. Auto mechanics, however, I have only a sample size of one since he’s been my mechanic since my first car, and he’s grumpy all the time, but does great work, is a master diagnostician (always fixed right the first time) and always tries to save me money. Important to note however that even though he’s grumpy, he’s still actually willing to explain his reasoning and seems slightly pleased (or maybe, just amused) that I’m interested enough to ask any technical questions. Sometime the genius is just an oddball.
(8) Anonymous Reader says:
The doctor has appealed the dismissal, according to TECH DIRT.
(9) Content Scraper says: Per Duluth News Tribune, January 24, 2012:
- The Minnesota Court of Appeals sent back for trial the case of Dr. David McKee v. Dennis Laurion. District Court Judge Eric Hylden had ruled that McKee was not defamed by the criticism and threw out the doctor’s lawsuit . . .
- McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, filed the defamation lawsuit against the son of one of his patients in June 2010. McKee alleges that Laurion defamed him and interfered with his business by posting false statements on the internet . . .
- Laurion’s defense attorney, John Kelly of Duluth, had gained summary judgment from Hylden . . . Hylden wrote that the alleged defamatory statements constituted opinions, true statements and statements too vague to carry defamatory meaning . . .
- The appellate court determined McKee’s defamation suit should proceed regarding six claims Laurion publicly made about McKee:
- That McKee told the patient he had to “spend time finding out if you were transferred or died.”
- That McKee said, “44 percent of hemorrhagic strokes die within 30 days. I guess this is the better option.”
- That McKee said, “You don’t need therapy.”
- That McKee said, “It doesn’t matter” that the patients gown did not cover his backside.
- That McKee left the patient’s room without talking to the patient’s family.
- That a nurse told Laurion that McKee was “a real tool.”
In an e-mail to the News Tribune, Laurion said “While being sued for defamation, I have been called a passive aggressive, an oddball, a liar, a coward, a bully, a malicious person, and a zealot family member,” Laurion wrote. “I’ve been said to have run a cottage industry vendetta, writing 19 letters, and posting 108 adverse Internet postings in person or through proxies. In reality, I posted ratings at three consumer rating sites, deleted them, and never rewrote them again . . .”