An Angry Apologist’s…Apology
Recently a fellow physician friend of mine wrote to let me know that the only thing wrong with my writing is my occasional use of foul-mouthed language. Now, I very much appreciate our friendship, and likewise I welcome his well-intended input. And in the almost twenty years since we met I’ve almost never heard a four letter word escape either his, or his wife’s lips.
Now I on the other hand was raised by a World War II Marine veteran, a good man and a great dad who brought the salty language of his peers back from overseas, and right into my upbringing. As a result I may not smoke, I’ve never used any illegal drugs, and I rarely drink, but I could teach graduate-level courses to sailors still learning their linguistic ropes.
In other words, to paraphrase Mozart – I’m a vulgar man.
And, as it happens I’m also a doctor.
A paradox? I don’t see why. A conflict of interest? I don’t see how. Conduct unbecoming a physician? Yeah, right.
Before I explain, I want to offer my deepest apologies – sincerely – to any who I may offend with my swearing, for that is not my intent. And I beg that my irreverence please not be a deterrent to any who can read between the lines, and find some use in what I have to say.
That being said however – and I hate to be the one to confirm this – doctors using filthy language is nothing new, or even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to physicians breaking bad. Oh, during my 20+ years of Emergency Rooming I’ve been cussed at too many times to count by other doctors. You see, sticks and stones may break my bones, but that’s nothing compared to how I’ve seen some of my colleagues treat people:
- I’ve personally been given the finger, had a few charts hurled at me, and once was even invited to settle a difference in the parking lot (I didn’t go) – all by my physician brethren.
- When I was in medical school there was a legend concerning a general surgeon who had ordered a medical student taped to the wall, because the student’s glasses had fallen onto the sterile operating field.
- Early in my ER career I had to call upon a whole group of cardiologists who flatly refused to admit high risk chest pain patients; even a confirmed heart attack on one occasion (luckily another cardiologist who was not on call agreed to take her).
- I saw a plastic surgeon use a stun gun on snakebite wounds in a fully conscious patient, claiming that the high voltage coursing through the tissue would destroy the venomous toxins. It didn’t work, and the unfortunate still had to undergo surgery for uncontrolled swelling.
- At a freestanding ER gig a few years ago I worked with one of the most pathologic, unstable, miscreant physicians I’ve ever encountered. This turkey didn’t hesitate to openly yell at staff, insult patients, and even – cuss at anyone, including yours truly. Yet after firing me (not for cussing, mind you) he became a high-ranking executive of that particular corporate medicine enterprise.
- Last but certainly not least I even witnessed the worst of the worst, when I saw a truly bad character given a pass again and again by her medical staff colleagues, the hospital administration, and even local law enforcement. After killing patients (I never heard her cuss though).
So given all that bulls&¡+, I really feel that the occasional sprinkling of a few wirty dords into my writing is – at least to me – well, downright harmless.
Once again, though, I apologize if my crossing that line causes any grief to those reading my work. But it’s important to understand that when I do cross that line, I’m only doing so to express and accentuate my outrage.
Which I shouldn’t do, according to my friend and colleague, who advised me that “People should be outraged enough by the content without you having to lower your dignity.”
Well he’s right of course. People should be outraged, but hopefully not at me for my choice of words. And to be frank I don’t see how my dignity (or lack thereof) has anything to do with it. I guess I’m just not that dignified, especially when I’m angry.
Besides, the real indignities are what I’m writing this blog and my books about in the first place:
- How highly educated, trained, and skilled doctors have been turned into commodities, batted back and forth between health insurers and corporate overlords. That is undignified, and should outrage my fellow physicians.
- How patients get duped by health insurers, who trick them into shelling out thousands of dollars a year to have “better” health insurance coverage that’s actually worthless (See Texas Teachers Get SCREWED – Again!). That is undignified, and should outrage employers and those who pay the premiums.
- How health care decisions and access to medical technology have been influenced, even controlled, by corporate and government third party payers, which has adversely affected the health of millions of people over the past four decades. That is undignified, yet remains the rule – rather than the exception – to how medicine is practiced in this country to this very day.
But what’s most undignified of all, and what should cause the most outrage amongst every one of my readers, is how all these things – and more – have been intentionally built on a series of lies and myths. All designed to manipulate our health care system, because if Americans enjoyed ready access to inexpensive health care in a free market system, many a companies’ profits would be eliminated.
THAT is what should get every American – who’s not in on the fix – cussing a little.
Me, on the other hand again? I’m certainly not perfect, and I’ll readily admit that I’ve been wrong before (you can ask both of my ex-wives). And I don’t want to break my arm while patting myself on the back, but throughout my career I’ve proven my dignity in ways most other doctors wouldn’t dare:
- I stood up for patients when I turned in a fellow doctor for killing.
- I stand for patients by calling out how they get ripped off by health insurance.
- I stood up for physicians when I sued – and won against – a former employer for making I and my fellow “employee” doctors pay the companys’ payroll taxes.
- I stand for both patients and doctors by insisting that America’s Emergency Rooms be staffed only by physicians properly board certified in Emergency Medicine.
- I stand against a health care system that is the costliest in the world, yet constantly – and consciously – works against keeping its subjects healthy.
Believe me, all that dignity has come at a price, and I and my family have suffered for some of my decisions. But I don’t look back with regret, nor do I plan to change my mode of attack going forward.
Nor do I intend to change my vernacular, either. So if a little cursing lowers my dignity in the eyes of some who I’d like to share my message with, well, I guess, f*ck it.
After all, it won’t be me who changes this FUBAR health care system. It will be all of you.
Now get busy.
It’s not the COSTS of health care that are outrageous…it’s the CHARGES.