Physicians, Beclown Thyselves

I’ve been having a few more thoughts about the bogus doctor’s notes handed out in Wisconsin recently.

My first thought is that it would have been awesome if one of the counter-protesters had gotten a bogus excuse note in the name of “Juan Epstein.”

On a more serious note, the University of Wisconsin Health System — whose residents were caught handing out the notes — says it’s investigating the matter and will act appropriately.

I’m still an amateur, but I’m thinking the residents might just be in the clear — at least largely. The limitations on their practicing say that they can only operate under the direct supervision of UW Health — and they were there with Dr. Kathy Oriel, UW Health’s Director of Residency. So they were being directly supervised by their school’s chosen representative.

No, the real blame falls on Dr. Oriel, who now has to explain how her actions — and those under her direct supervision — were perfectly moral and ethical and proper. And on her employer, UW Health, in whose name she is fully authorized to act. If she doesn’t go, then the entire program has been thoroughly discredited.

But the residents? Wrist slap. They should have known better, but they aren’t expected to really know better at this point — which is why they are not held fully responsible for their actions. No, their supervisors and institutions are.

Hope you enjoyed your career, Dr. Oriel. If there’s any justice, you just brought it to a glorious end.

Finally, any school district presented with a doctor’s note from an absent faculty member certainly should not accept that at face value. It’s thoroughly documented that a ton of such notes were absolutely fraudulent. The faculty member should be told that they can withdraw the note, or submit corroborating documentation — a second note describing the date, time, and location of the exam, a receipt from their co-pay for the visit — no, nothing that would violate doctor-patient confidentiality, but verifies that they were genuinely ill and treated by a doctor. Further, if the note is not from their regular doctor, that should raise even more red flags.

Others have noted that this was an act of “civil disobedience.” One of the defining elements of such acts is to accept the consequences of such acts. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t have high-powered lawyers at hand to bail him out after he was arrested — note that his famous missive is not datelined “Press Conference” or even “My Attorney’s Conference Room,” but “Birmingham Jail.”

These doctors chose to make a political stand — and, in the process, violated the professional and ethical standards of their profession. Far be it for me to deny them the full benefits — and consequences — of those actions.

Western Martyrs
"Where have the good men gone?"