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California’s Medical/Legal System:  Health Reform Laws Held Back by Special Interests

HEALTH AND PATIENT SAFETY - Some devoted patient safety activists worked alongside Consumer Watchdog and Consumer Attorneys of California for decades to get the antiquated Medical Injury Compensation Act (MICRA) cap increased.

They accomplished their momentous goal last month with AB 35

If patient safety was the number one priority of the California Medical Association, (CMA) Doctors Company, and legislators, MICRA cap increase should have gone to about $1.2 million immediately based on inflation. The statute of limitations did not increase. A harmed consumer or a family dealing with the death of a loved one needs longer than one year to file suit. Also, complications from medical harm often show up in the long-term, so this short cap is fruitless. 

It's hypocritical to make activists work for decades for what are common sense, responsible patient safety measures. The MICRA compromise is a step, but not enough to stop medical harm. 

Those in charge of consumer health in California make compromises, receive awards, and take advantage of pre-election photo ops, which gives the impression they are champions of patient safety, while the public remains at significant risk. Those in power have thus far refused to stop medical scams, get rid of unethical Medical Board of California (MBC) experts, address the problem of falsified medical records, surgical assault and more. They’ve been asked to for years. 

At the May 2022 MBC meeting, consumers objected to Gloria Castro’s defense of the record of the Attorney General’s (AG) office. Some challenged her portrayal of MBC experts as all being saints. Victims of medical harm and people whose loved ones were harmed know firsthand Ms. Castro’s words do not hold weight; their valid cases were denied and some experts are corrupt. 

Health Quality Investigation Unit (HQIU) has a 25% vacancy rate in investigators. The department will recruit students to help. Investigators, who are given up to thirty-five cases at once, are not paid well. The CMA vetoed a license fee increase last year for doctors. It seems the CMA does not want MBC to have adequate funds. The MBC had to take out a 10-million-dollar loan. They will need fee increases to pay it back. This leaves the HQIU team overworked, underpaid, understaffed, and relying on students. This does not support patient safety. 

Misinformation and Disinformation

Misinformation is misleading information presented as fact. Disinformation is false information that is spread deliberately to deceive people. 

MBC President Lawson said the pandemic has brought to light how dangerous Mi and Di can be. Several advocates asked Lawson not to politicize board issues and to focus on all Mi and Di, not just COVID. Doctors who do plastic and cosmetic procedures have disseminated Mi and Di for decades. Tragic cases of plastic surgery done for medically recommended and cosmetic reasons come before the board on a regular basis. The MBC denies egregious cases, reprimands a few doctors, yet never deals with the root cause of harm. The MBC cannot fix a problem it ignores. 

In a recent complaint against a cosmetic surgeon, the MBC document says the doctor “measured for fat.” Doctors don’t measure for fat. They pinch tissue between their fingers and guess how much is skin and how much is fat, jab cannulas into the body, and remove part of the endocrine organ that regulates homeostasis. They risk structural harm, death, and cause health problems. 

An expert who performs liposuction, a medical scam, is not the right person to discipline others. Changing the liposuction code is paramount for consumer safety. Being prudent means acting with and showing thought for the future. Doctors who kill, batter, maim, or remove part of an endocrine organ, (which leads to long-term problems), or lie in court using their MBC status to sway a jury are not prudent. The MBC aids and abets quacks and uses them as "experts."   

Doctors Contradict Biology for Profit

Presumably medical students learn how body systems work in medical school. They learn about the endocrine system, which includes fat cells. Hopefully they learn that fatty acids store energy, stockpile nutrients, insulate us, protect our organs. Fat cells help proteins do their jobs, and start critical chemical reactions that help control immune function, reproduction, growth, regulate hormones, and other aspects of metabolism, the core of energy regulation. 

But some medical students, when they become doctors, ignore what they learned and turn right around to perform, experiment with, sell, and normalize procedures that remove, freeze, or burn fat cells. They disseminate Mi and Di, downplay, and deny bad effects and often assault patients. 

A 32-year-old who was healthy and fit, got ill from breast implants. Like countless others, Ann was not informed of the true risks of implants. When she got them removed, another surgeon charged thousands of dollars to perform liposuction on her lower body and transfer the fat to her breasts. Again, Ann was not informed of true risks and long-term harm of liposuction or fat transfer. The “expert” removed half of her butt cheeks, (Ann didn’t know assault and mutilation was a possibility). He left her disfigured, devastated, and unrecognizable. She has difficulty sitting. Now, Ann has gained weight on purpose so yet another surgeon can profit by doing liposuction again in order to stick the fat into her butt. This quackery is modern medicine. 

Medical Board Experts May Be Foxes Guarding the Henhouse 

For decades, the MBC has contracted a plastic surgeon as an expert who was on exploitive TV shows that helped popularize harmful, risky plastic surgery. This surgeon is banned by the Military Health Agency until 2028 for repeated abuse. His position with the MBC gives him sway over civil juries and TV audiences. Licensing doctors to do scams and exploit people is antithetical to public safety. The MBC empowers bad doctors and procedures. 

Sadly, to legislators, money comes first. Many legislators get campaign funds from the legal, medical, and insurance industries and enjoy friendships with CMA members. This affects neutrality. Our elected officials have to choose: public health or doctors’ pocketbook

MBC Meeting Minutes

Public board member Mr. Watkins asked for five corrections to his statements. Multiple consumers stated the MBC minutes present a false, misleading report of their testimony in the meetings and remind them of their medical records, which are full of lies and omissions. 

More Consumer Comments at MBC Meeting

Those representing patients in intractable pain requested the MBC to encourage doctors to come back to treating pain, protect pharmacists, question the DEA and possible federal pushback, overcome stigma for pain patient, and more. 

Some consumers explained that many doctors don’t listen, which results in misdiagnoses and mistreatment including a stacking on of unneeded medications – mistreating bad effects caused by medication with more medication. 

Marian Hollingworth said that the MBC gave a license back to a doctor who was found responsible for egregious sexual misconduct and to another who admitted he relapsed since his surrender for his child pornography addiction. 

A woman whose father lost his life did not hear back from the board when her complaint was closed. This lack of transparency and respect to consumers is an ongoing problem. Also, the MBC doesn’t have enough evidence for complaints because doctors falsify the medical records

A Voice for Choice advocate explained that doctors won’t write needed, appropriate medical exemptions because they are worried about the board witch-hunting them. She explained Standard of Care (SOC) in California is not as good as at Mayo Clinic or worldwide. 

A member of the public said SOC is so unreliable, it took 100 doctors to figure out the reason for her pelvic pain. These doctors caused her physical harm and trauma. The concept of SOC is problematic and fails to protect consumers from dangerous doctors or medical quackery. Medical laws are based on lobbying, not research and science. It’s time to think outside of the SOC box. 

Takeaway From the May Meeting

The field of medicine is continuously changing. SOC is fluid. Holistic medicine focuses on prevention, contrary to allopathic medicine. The MBC is out of step and responsible for patient harm for, (among other things), not focusing on prevention and allowing harmful, unneeded interventions to be classified as SOC. Some MBC expert reviewers are failing the public. 

A Cinematic Reminder of How Corrupt the Medical/Legal System Is

The Verdict, a classic film from 1982, stars Paul Newman about a down-on-his-luck medical malpractice lawyer, Frank Galvin. In the film, as in life, the institutional corruption is vast, stacking the odds against Galvin in a case that should be a slam dunk. The story exemplifies the deep corruption in the medical-legal system. I suggest giving it a view. 

What can you do? Follow my articles, read 4patientsafety.org, listen to Ralph Nader. Believe and support friends and family injured by doctors. Join the patient safety movement.  

(Sasha Lauren, author of The Paris Predicament, is a patient safety educator and Citywatch contributor. As a L.M.T. she gave over 30,000 sessions of therapeutic massage and taught massage, relaxation, and behavioral health skills. Her approach is holistic and preventative. The information presented in this article is not for personal medical or legal advice or instruction.)