Dismepowerment of the Iatrogenically Injured Patient
In 2007, I was seeing an ENT for tinnitus—ear ringing. Dr. S ordered scans and found sinus polyps—a benign condition shared by 30 to 40% of the population. The day that Dr. S read the CT scan, he was inexplicably angry with me. So angry he could not even look at me. “Don’t ask stupid questions!” he barked. “Just listen! Don’t interrupt!” He said he was going to remove some polyps. He did not mention the terms “turbinate reduction” or “Caldwell-Luc.” He said, “We’ll fix that deviated septum at the same time.”
Six days later, Dr. S dismantled my face and destroyed the function of my nose at an outpatient surgery center. I acquired acinetobacter, an antibiotic-resistant, hospital-acquired or nosocomial infection in the surgery. Only severely ill patients are susceptible to acinetobacter. A pile of bone measuring nearly two inches by two inches was drilled and power-sawed out of my face and nose. I lost a significant portion of the inner organ of my nose. The bone structure of my face and nose were destroyed. Soft tissues were inexplicably removed from my face. My nasal septum was shortened, turning my nose into a pig snout.
Everything that Dr. S did was an injury to my face and to my health. Loss of bone structure and soft tissue are major issues of an aging face. As a self-described plastic surgeon, it is not credible that Dr. S removed all these tissues without realizing what he was doing to my face. There was no medical basis for anything that he did. The pre-surgery CT report states that “no significant septal deviation is seen.” I had no breathing problems, had never had a sinus infection and had never been seen by any doctor for any nasal or sinus issue. I had tinnitus which is not caused by sinus polyps. At fifty-five, my face showed almost no signs of aging.
Do I know why Dr. S was so angry with me the day that he ordered the surgeries? I believe I do. Many months after the surgery—while writing a book—I discovered the missing piece of the puzzle in a file.
More than two years later, I have seen some thirty doctors for problems due to the surgeries. I have spent ten thousand dollars on alternative medicine. I have been unable to work and my finances are ruined. My nose is miserable and my face is a remnant of its former self.
I was unable to sue Dr. S due to these factors: Tort reform laws passed in Ohio several years ago limited the cap on pain suffering making medical malpractice unprofitable to lawyers: http://www.mcandl.com/ohio.html. An advertising campaign poisoned the minds of potential jurors so that most med mal cases are being lost. In the face of slender odds, I found a lawyer. However, my case never went to court due to the third obstacle to medical malpractice cases. The doctor who treated my condition following the surgeries refused to testify on my behalf.
If the surgical destruction was a shock, the events that followed left me dazed and horrified. I was unable to receive appropriate health care. Antitbiotic-resistant infections went uncultured and untreated. Doctors refused to treat me, treated me as if I were a criminal, and endlessly referred me on. For the most part, they refused to tell me anything about my conditions. Those conditions of which I was informed went unreported in my records. In the place of medical data, there was medical language, twisted and abused, to cover up the truth. Unfounded slurs against my character and mental health were recorded. Throughout this process, doctors shared their spurious claims behind my back, often without any legal basis for discussing my case.
I have contacted every agency charged with the safety and protection of patients, except for, at this time, the Ohio State Medical Board. None of the agencies has helped me or shown any interest in doing so.
What happened to me? Apparently nothing new. My experience follows a blueprint of what happens to patients who suffer iatrogenic—medically-caused—injury. As if the injury is not trauma enough, the medical system, an organism functioning to protect itself, turns on the injured patient. Individuals work together, either consciously or subconsciously, to obscure the iatrogenic injury and turn the spotlight on some manufactured flaw of the patient. “A patient being blacklisted can go from doctor to doctor to doctor without getting diagnosed or treated and never know why,” writes another injured patient: http://www.patient-safety.com/blacklisting_patients.htm.
Usually, according to this writer, the blacklisting is subtle, but: “Sometimes it is one physician blatantly telling another physician to find nothing wrong with a patient, to give no tests that could uncover injuries, and no referrals that could help the patient because anything found could indict a fellow physician.”
“Why would a physician risk his license and intentionally ruin the life of a patient? Well, there’s really no risk. Who is going to report it? And who would believe the report? And who would do anything about it if they did?”
From my experience so far, no one.