Lawyers

Mom’s attorney sent her this yesterday, complete with unique spelling and grammar. Names and locations have obviously been changed:

Hi Client,

Some time ago my Senior Partner researched on a no-charge basis whether Dr. Neurologist could report you to Department of Licensing without legal consequences for what would appear to be a violation of physician-patient confidentiality, as well as privacy laws.  Daughter (me) thought reporting would not violate these laws.  I assumed it wouldn’t either, as a “public safety” exception to these laws. 

My Senior Partner discovered that in fact, there is no legal protection for physicians who choose to report their patients to the Department of Licensing in Washington state.  I looked at what he looked at, and other law, today, also on a no charge basis, and agree with what Senior Partner found.  I am surprised.  Some states MANDATE physician reporting in certain circumstances – for example, California and Utah mandate reporting when there is dementia, and three other states mandate physician reporting for epilepsy.  But our state does not mandate physician reporting in any case, and doesn’t provide any legal immunity to doctors who choose to do so. 

I doubt you want to file a complaint against Dr. Neurologist or take other action against him, but I wanted to let you know about this law.  Also, I understand that Dr. Neurologist told you and daughter that he was going to contact the Department of Licensing about your driving, and that you would be re-tested.  I don’t believe either you or daughter protested after he said this, which he may argue means that you consented to his reporting.  (Of course, you weren’t given an opportunity to re-test – yet – and his report to DOL says that your driving should be “preclude[d]”, so what he apparently said and did are two different things.) 

I’m not charging you for this email, either, but I wanted to share with you what we found since it’s contrary to what we all expected.  (Except for my Senior Partner, who was outraged from the get-go that Dr. Neurologist reported you without your express permission.) 

Best wishes, Attorney. 

After re-reading this several times, and absorbing that it’s basically an invitation to engage in another round of legal posturing, at great expense, I responded as follows:

Hi Attorney,

I talked with my daughter, also an attorney, about this. Any doctor determined to keep their license will report a patient whose clinical diagnosis is dementia. Should that driver/patient go forth from the doctor’s office and plow into an innocent person/people (as has happened so recently), injuring or killing them, who is going to be included on the list of defendants next to the driver/patient? Their doctor, who didn’t think to keep their patient safe. And while there’s no guarantee the doctor will be found culpable along with the driver/patient, every doctor I know is also a business person and thinks very carefully about the value of their liability insurance and how not to exercise it, much less be even remotely responsible for another’s injury or death, particularly due to inaction.

I agree that Dr. Neurologist took a stronger tact than he indicated he was going to, but I am not a neurologist and don’t know what made him become so conservative after seeing mom to discuss her diagnosis.  

My mom doesn’t need to get more exercised than she already is. A  complaint filed against Dr. Neurologist, who made a clinical diagnosis based on imaging and a neuro-psych work up, will cost mom thousands more dollars and then be tossed out. Let’s face it, his insurance company has dealt with this before for many a doctor and probably has their case polished to a mirror finish (says the former insurance administrator!). Let’s get through the second neuro appointment, convince the state to let her retest and see how she does.          

ThankX, Daughter of your Client.

Thankfully, my mom is of the same opinion, that being, life is too short to file a complaint against the first neurologist. She told me last night, if she’s going to throw good money after bad, she’d rather go to Fiji. Maybe she’ll take me with her. While she certainly has dementia, her humor is well intact and somewhere deep down, her sense of the screaming obvious remains. I am thankful.

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