Talk Back

August 1, 2008

Burned by the bottle; An expert in self-promotion; New Jersey's baby step; HIPAA headaches; An atheist's perspective

Burned by the bottle

I read this article ["Helping doctors who need help," June 20, 2008] with interest, not because I know of anyone needing help at this moment - I was just hoping to find out that the system is better now than it was about 14 years ago. At that time, I was a newly minted GP in a small town in the Northwest. The other practitioner at the office was known widely to have a drinking problem, but when he actually came to the office smelling of alcohol in the morning once, I decided to seek advice.

I phoned the "anonymous" help line through the licensure people. They assured me they would contact him to evaluate the situation without telling him who made the inquiry. Well, clearly the concept of "anonymous" in the big city and in the town where I was living was different. He told my co-worker that "a doctor who works with you" (there were two total) had reported a concern and that he had also spoken with "a nurse who has worked with you" (only one had left in many years) as well as "a nurse who works with you" (there were two).

I'm very glad there are good resources for doctors and others with impairment or concerns about impaired others, but I got burned for doing "the right thing." Would I do it again? Maybe. That's the best I can offer.

-Name withheld upon request

An expert in self-promotion

This is the experience of a disappointed expert witness who now wishes to portray himself as an intellectual who somehow is responsible for human destiny ["The downside of tort reform," June 6, 2008].

The jury most likely recognized the exaggerated sense of self-importance he must have shown and discounted his opinion as unreliable. So he now uses Medical Economics as a platform to prove to himself that he is not worthless. This article is more about self-promotion than a malpractice case report. Medical Economics should have edited out the last paragraph, which states "When I helped spearhead the tort reform . . . I didn't foresee the unintended consequences . . ."

If no reference is given, or cannot be given by the writer for his role in writing tort reform in Nevada, a respectable magazine should not allow a statement regarding the writer's self-declared role in it in print. If it was verified, that fact should be printed as well. Had the writer said, "When we took the tort reform movement forward . . ." it would have been more acceptable.

Medical Economics should not let itself fall victim to subtle methods of advertisement. If this man makes more money as an expert witness than as an oncologist, this article would help to preserve his reputation for future expert-witness income.

T.K. Cumarasamy MD Burlington, NJ

New Jersey's baby step

With the passage of S1557, the New Jersey Legislature took a big first step toward healthcare reform.

S1557 mandates that New Jersey's children have health insurance and sets forth market reforms that will bring younger people into the individual insurance market. The bill will expand N.J. Family Care insurance to help cover more children and their families.

Thanks to two important amendments, this bill ensures that coverage will still be affordable for our state's low-income families. The first amendment creates a financial hardship exemption from Family Care premiums for families who cannot afford them. The second amendment expands an insurance premium rate cap to older individuals in the health insurance market.