Saturday, January 13, 2018

Patient Dumping in Baltimore

"This place is cruel; nowhere could be much colder /If we don't change the world will soon be over"
Stevie Wonder "Living For The City"

There are things you are allowed to do and things you are not allowed to do. When no one is looking, for many people it's tempting to do the things they aren't allowed to do, particularly if it saves them or makes them money. For an auto company engineer this could mean ignoring a defective transmission part and letting a poor design go to market. Why should she jeopardize her bonus and next promotion for something that may not even be discovered for another decade? She can reason that those drivers could have had fatal accidents anyway. Maybe a banker sells a young couple a horrible mortgage with sub-prime interest rates and balloon payments, reasoning that as long as they sign on the dotted line it's not his responsibility to save them from themselves. A restaurant owner might choose to use the moldy jalapenos in the rear of the freezer or fry up the wormy meat that fell on the floor. Margins are tight and state investigators will never know. 

Or maybe a hospital, already dealing with lower reimbursements and higher costs than it can handle, decides to eject the patients who either lack insurance or lack more remunerative private insurance. This is called patient dumping. A psychotherapist good Samaritan named Imamu Baraka, apparently by happenstance, witnessed a woman being dumped outside near the bus stop on a cold winter night. The woman was incoherent. She only had a gown on. 

BALTIMORE (AP) — The man who said he came to the aid of a woman discharged from a Baltimore hospital wearing only a gown and socks on a cold winter's night, says he was left outraged and stunned at how she was treated.

Imamu Baraka, identified in local reports as the person who sought to help the woman, told The Associated Press he was so angry he decided to record Tuesday night's events on cellphone video, fearing no one would believe him if he reported a woman being left at a bus stop like that.

"I saw the unthinkable: another human in a wheelchair being wheeled out in the dead of cold," he said in the phone interview Thursday evening. He described frigid temperatures in the 30s and a cold wind blowing at the woman's hospital gown, exposing her to the elements.
Baraka, who said he has a psychotherapy practice in a building across the street from the Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus, said he rushed back to his office, retrieved his cellphone, returned and hit "record" while growing increasingly angry.

As a medical professional, the psychotherapist said he sought to keep his emotions in check even as he repeatedly challenged those who had wheeled the woman out to the street in the dark.

"At first I was shocked. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. And I move beyond that to the next level from being shocked. I became ... irritated and fearful for the young lady. And then I became angry," he recalled. He added he failed to get satisfactory answers as he tried to help the woman.

Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus, told a news conference on Thursday afternoon that the hospital had "failed" after the video posted on Facebook showed the unidentified woman mumbling and appearing disoriented in frigid weather outside. Suntha also said there were no excuses for what happened to the woman.


What counts isn't how you act when the spotlight is on you. What counts is how you act when no one else is watching. Unfortunately, or perhaps paradoxically, most of us will behave better when there is someone else watching. The speeder slows down when he notices a police car in the median. The abusive husband doesn't strike his wife when her NFL offensive tackle size brothers are visiting. And hospitals back pedal and make excuses when something like this is caught on tape. I think more and more things like this will happen. We are a mean society. Inequality continues to increase. And stories like this also show that many people will go along with whatever the people at the top direct them to do. Too many people are shockingly deferential to power and authority. Whoever ordered that this woman be removed from the hospital likely didn't do it themselves. They had plenty of other minions to carry out their order.

If these minions were ever challenged on their actions they will say they were just doing their jobs and/or weren't at the level where decisions were made and yada, yada, yada. Fortunately we are not yet all like the devils described in The Screwtape Letters. There are still plenty of people with good hearts like Dr. Baraka, who know that there are things you don't do to dogs, let alone people.
blog comments powered by Disqus