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« Brownback on evolution | Main | Never mind what the jury said »

May 31, 2007

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Dr. Mary Johnson

I've been on the road for a number of hours. The first e-mail in my box when I got to the hotel was from a fellow blogger telling me that you were obviously "baiting" me with this post.

You're several weeks late to this story, Ed. And that's a real shame, because as a "tech blogger" (and son of a physician), I thought you might sympathize with someone who suffered intimidation and retribution for blogging. Flea's blog was a work of art. And when it went down (to pacify the lawyers), a chill went through the medical blogosphere.

As you no doubt know, I've been blogging on Flea's predicament for a while now. I've corresponded with him on several occasions, and I think the world of him . . . probably because he's always treated me like a human being in the blogosphere (as opposed to a bug to be stomped).

One of my posts (detailing my own experience as the defendant in a malpractice case) has gotten quite a bit of "link love" in the last few weeks. And I had a post up on the circumstances of the settlement this morning.

I feel awful for Flea as this case was obviously not settled on the facts of the case or the medical merits . . . but on fear.

Ed Cone

Beyond the fact that the planet's every tale of woe (not to mention every post at this weblog) is actually about you you you, Mary, the article from the May 31 Boston Globe speaks to an issue that a surprisingly large number of people refuse to understand: Don't publish stuff on the world wide web that you don't wish the wide world to see.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Good morning to you too Edward. I see Mr. Me is all "Effed up" and ready to slam the guests visiting his planet.

The POINT is that Flea DID want the world to see what the receiving end of a malpractice claim was like. The world needs to see.

And we're not getting that particular side of the truth from our journalists and/or political representatives.

If you would look past the sound bite (which you rarely ever do), you would know that many people are discussing how Flea's blog posts on opposing counsel or snoozing jurors had ANY relevance to the FACTS of the case (since you care so much about facts) . . . a case that went to trial because his lawyers and insurance company thought he would win on the medical merits.

Not that they matter.

To the best of my recollection (having read the posts in real time) Flea NEVER discussed the specifics of the case.

It says a whole lot about our justice system (none of it good) that a case can be settled in this fashion . . . basically glorified blackmail.

As I said on my blog this morning in an update to my post (http://drjshousecalls.blogspot.com/2007/05/unsettling-end-in-case-of-disappearing.html), as more of the facts come out . . . and they will, because the medical blogosphere is all over this one, Flea could become a poster child for malpractice tort reform.

Ed Cone

Personal publishing could be a powerful tool for reforming the justice system, but like any powerful tool it can do damage if misused.

It seems that in this case, Dr. Lindeman did himself more harm than good by blogging as he did. You say his case was strong, which supports the iatrogenic theory of its demise.

Perhaps his case will spark wider interest and action in the issues around malpractice suits. Perhaps that will provide him with some satisfiction. But I'm guessing that right about now he's not feeling so great about using his blog as he did. I'd love to hear from him on that subject.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Ed, I have no personal knowledge of the case. I do know that someone felt that it was strong . . . because it was not settled before it went to trial.

I was one of the voices pleading with Flea to be careful . . . even stop . . . because I knew something like this could happen. A doctor even having a blog is a huge risk . . . as I discovered in my own brush with malpractice litigation. It's a risk that many non-doctors in the blogosphere (including you) do not appear to appreciate.

Flea (he will always be Flea to me) thought it was protection enough not to discuss the medical specifics of the case on his blog. The Boston Globe article you cite did not give any details . . . except that a child died of diabetic ketoacidosis (as I read it, six weeks after an encounter with Flea).

Six weeks is a long time. That raises all kinds of red flags and questions for a defense lawyer . . . questions that might have been answered at trial had it been allowed to continue.

The case did not reach a jury because once Flea was "outed" the risk managers and lawyers started making their deals. I'm not even sure if a motion was heard on the relevancy of the blog's content before the settlement (what inquiring minds would like to know).

Most people do not know that some insurance companies can settle a malpractice case without the doctor's consent.

I hope I am wrong, but I don't think anyone will be hearing (publicly) from Flea for a while. This case (as he expressed very eloquently on his blog and in our personal correspondence) was devestating to him before the settlement. I cannot imagine how he feels now.

I do imagine that it certainly does not help to hear the back-seat-bloggers say "I told you so" (especially those who did not even have Flea on their radar before the news headlline).

Ed Cone

I don't mean any harm to Dr. Lindeman. I don't know him, or the specifics of his case, and I do tend to sympathize with both doctors and bloggers. And I understand and respect the fact that he has become important to you, Mary.

But there is a vitally important issue that his story would seem to make clear, yet again -- the power of this medium, and the fact that the world will use information as it pleases.

Stories of people who have lost their jobs due to blogging have been a staple of my intro-to-blogging speech for several years now. Flea's story will no doubt be featured in future versions of the talk. It's not gloating, or saying "I told you so," it is a powerful cautionary tale about the potential impact of personal publishing.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Just a few comments up, you didn't sound very "respectful" at all.

And I just bet Flea will be honored to be featured in your talk. Will you add that a local doctor you de-linked from your blogroll was blogging on his case for weeks right under your nose and you chose to ignore it/her . . . until the matter became a MSM headline?

"I do tend to sympathize with doctors and bloggers."

One would not know that by the way you've treated me . . . or the story I have to tell (insert pointed jab to JR and Doug Clark: as an "insider" who came forward).

On that note, I need to go take a Pepto.

Ed Cone

Of course I'll include you in the talk, Mary.

As noted previously in this very thread, Flea's story -- like everything, always -- is really about you.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Heaviest of sighs.

With that bit of snark, Edward, you have demonstrated (not for the first time) just how much sympathy and "respect" you actually have for me . . . or (for that matter) any other blogger who challenges you (in whatever fashion) and/or beats you to the punch on a story of import.

Which is EXACTLY what happened here.

It is a great example of "communitas" for all of those newbie bloggers who will sit at your feet absorbing the crumbs you throw (as I once did) in the hope that their voice can change the world.

It is also especially disconcerting to me personally (I know, meMeME) as, in this case, you know more than "the average" reader of my blog (not that you'll admit to reading it). Not so long ago, desperate for help, I once shared a life-changing professional experience with you (OFF THE RECORD and in confidence in your capacity as a local "journalist" . . . and labelled as such FROM THE BEGINNING of that exchange) just one of a number of unpleasant experiences I've had in medicine since hitting the road to survive . . . things that (unlike the brave and foolish Flea), I've dared not post . . . because I sign my name.

I know all to well how the world works.

My reticence is evaporating though, as I have has ALL I CAN TAKE of a state Medical Board that sits idly by and does absolutely nothing as innocent babies get mauled and/or die . . . that lets good/conscientious/trying-to-do-the-right-thing doctors swing in the breeze for the trying . . . while doctors-who-aren't-so-good-and-don't-care-so-much sail along completely unscathed.

Then there is a political & legal system fraught with in-your-face corruption (I assume you remember Jim Black . . . and that you've heard about Thomas Wright . . . and "Tork Wade" . . . and Mary McAllister?). The big-city papers didn't dwell on it, so I'll suppose that the "disproportionate share" fiasco (millions, if not billions of taxpayer dollars down the drain) is but a distant memory to you. And our Mental Health system is a total mess in the wake of her tenure, but Carmen Hooker Odom is on her way to New York City, so no worries there. All of this has been "overseen" by an Attorney General and Governor (both members of the Democratic party - your party) who, for all of the blather they spout about "ethics" and "accountability" do not give a rat's tail about truth or justice FOR EVERYONE unless the 60 Minutes lights & cameras are parked on their front door-step.

And then (God help me), then there are the lawyers (like John Edwards) . . .

From our e-mail exchange, YOU KNOW VERY WELL that it is NOT all about me. Yet still you toss the droll put-downs . . . to impress your blogger-buddies . . . and in the process, you demonstrate oneupmanship at its most pathetic and cowardly.

I've waited the better part of the day to post this response, as I just started a new assignment (far, far away - for reasons that are well-known to you), and in the wake of Flea's doctor-blogging nightmare, I have resolved not to ever post anything from a work-related computer.

As a doctor, I apparently am not supposed to have or express an opinion about anything . . . or advocate to change things that I believe are very wrong with my profession.

I feel like Cara Michelle (Hi girl! You rock!)

Edward, I've tried to appeal to your sensibilities using every angle I could think of . . . as the Father of a daughter you adore (would you want the things I have described to you to have happened to her?) . . . as the son of a physician (whose family name adorns a hospital that figured prominently into the despicable things that were done to me in Asheboro) . . . as a "prominent" local journalist and blogger (who says he cares about truth and justice).

I just don't know what it takes. And I truly don't know why I ever jumped through all the hoops.

Of course, if I ever do post "Why I Blog, Part Two" (a project borne of being tagged by Flea) . . . or finally do decide to sue the great state of North Carolina for its BEYOND GROSS NEGLIGENCE (something that our great state so richly deserves . . . something that is looking more and more enticing as every day goes by with nothing but silence from that gutless, worthless crowd in Raleigh), you'd no doubt be first in line with the "inside scoop". JR will be right behind you with his Google cache.

It beats investigative reporting any day.

"Look what I knew", you will say. Just remember to insert, "And did nothing about".

Who will it be about then?

Connie Mack Jr

Who will it be about then?*DMJ

Just about anything that gets Ed's attention that does not get his expert opinion on the net. Reality in the blogging business is not a strong point, Is it not Doc?

Dr. Mary Johnson

Connie, I've discovered that "the blogging business" is no different that any of the other "businesses" I've banged my head against over the last nearly-ten years trying to right a fairly simple wrong.

This one stings a little more because I started out with such high hopes based on the hype and hot air.

Ed Cone

Connie, I have banned the IP address you used for this comment, and will delete future comments if you get around the ban again.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Late back to this (new job/odd hours). Some interesting e-mails have been landing in my box again.

Ed, I'm just curious. The "ban" aside, what was wrong with the comment that Connie posted on this thread?

And how exactly is what he's done any different from calling his wife "batshit crazy"? Dem's fighting words. Do you really expect to spew stuff like that and not have the husband who loves her call you out?

People have long memories. Since this thread is about consequences to one's actions, allow me to note that sometimes the mealy-mouthed "apologies" don't cut the mustard.

They're not enough.

Ed Cone

I asked Connie nicely to curtail the constant, semi-coherent, off-topic comments, and the trolling of Bubba as well. He replied, "ban me, asshole." Done.

I apologized in person to Rachel Hunter for calling her "batshit crazy," but I have no apologies for pointing out that her campaign North Carolina Supreme Court showed her to be highly injudicious, in that she tried to list herself on the ballot as "Madame Justice," compared a black candidate to a slave on a plantation, lied about a major endorsement, referred to her opponent and his backers as "the beast" and "mafia," and compared Justice Mark Martin to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels and ran a photo of Goebbels alongside a photo of Martin, etc.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Yes, I heard about the apology.

Corruption runs deep in this state, Ed . . . especially in our political and legal systems . . . which was Rachel's theme in her campaign. And she did get somewhere around 600,000 votes.

In order for corruption to be so pervasive and to run so deep, our journalists (the same ones calling for reform now) had to be looking the other way for a very long time.

From my own experience with NC justice system, comparisons to "the beast" and "the mafia" are not entirely unfounded . . . and there is more than a ring of truth to that portion of the rhetoric.

I am (obviously) very bad at the game of politics, but allow me to make an observation. I don't argue that some of the tactics and rhetoric employed during Rachel's campaign were way "over-the-top" (don't hate me Connie, not that Ed will let you comment).

But (sadly) that's what it took to get your attention. And when it got your attention, what you did was hurl the personal explicative . . . at a woman with a brain tumor.

Lowest common denominator.

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