Clinical Psychiatry News (Letter to the editor) PHPs: part of the problem

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I was heartened to read Doug Brunk’s recent article on the need to address the problem of physician suicide within the medical profession (“Medicine grapples with physician suicide,” February 2015, p. 1). As a physician who knows of many suicides of good doctors, I have been working with Dr. Pamela Wible to expose this phenomenon gradually (as it is difficult to get one’s head around if presented all at once) and have been making some gains.

Another issue tied to the incredible stresses endured by physicians is rooted in the groupthink within state physician health programs (PHPs).

Dr. John R. Knight and Dr. J. Wesley Boyd (who collectively have more than 25 years’ experience with the Massachusetts PHP) have been trying to expose the ethical and managerial issues tied to the “diversion” or “safe haven” programs for physicians with alcohol or drug problems (J. Addict. Med. 2012;6:243-6). My posts on disruptedphysician.com also examine these issues.

Meanwhile, a 2014 performance audit of the North Carolina Physicians Health Program found that “abuse could occur but not be detected” and revealed conflicts of interest between the state’s PHP programs and “PHP-approved” assessment centers. Another key finding is the PHP “created the appearance of conflicts of interest” by allowing treatment centers that receive referrals to fund its retreats and scholarships for physicians who could not afford treatment directly to treatment centers. The audit also uncovered other disturbing practices that lead to undue pressure on North Carolina’s physicians. For details, check out the report here.

More recently, several health professionals have filed a class action suit in the Eastern District of Michigan against several entities, including the state’s Health Professional Recovery Program. The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that the involuntary program has become a “highly punitive” one in which “health professionals are forced into extensive and unnecessary substance abuse/dependence treatment.”

Getting the word out about the impact of PHPs on physicians (and other health care professionals) has proven difficult for many reasons, but we must remain vigilant. The health of our fellow physicians and the medical profession depends on it.


Michael Lawrence Langan, M.D.

Brookline, Mass.

Citation Details

Title: PHPs: part of the problem.(Letter to the editor)
Author: Michael Lawrence Langan
Publication: Clinical Psychiatry News (Magazine/Journal)
Date: April 1, 2015
Publisher: International Medical News Group
Volume: 43    Issue: 4    Page: 14(1)

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10 thoughts on “Clinical Psychiatry News (Letter to the editor) PHPs: part of the problem

  1. All psychiatric “treatment” is not care, it is punishment. Much of it can be classified as torture under international law. Do you know the work of Tina Minkowitz, who works directly with the United Nations? Those represented are divided into groups of people and I have been suggesting additional groups. For instance, there is a group of those representing those that are visually impaired from all over the world, and other groups, I really cannot recall all of them so I don’t want even try to list all. I know there is a group of those who were “users of psychiatric services.” I don’t think there’s one of “users of addiction services” unless this is included under psychiatry. (Not necessarily by choice.) It is worded this way because we believe that once these services are used, the person is negatively affected due to immediate wreckage of reputation. To me, it is murder of the soul. Julie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dozens of a disgraced cancer doctor’s former patients — who say they were given false diagnoses or needless treatment — converged on a Detroit courthouse Monday for the start of a weeklong sentencing hearing.

    Prosecutors are asking that Dr. Farid Fata, who pleaded guilty to fraud for bilking patients and insurance companies out of millions, get 175 years in prison.

    About 35 of the victims took a bus to federal court for the chance to watch Fata as a government witness described his crimes.

    “When he walked by me during one of the breaks, when they walked him out, I looked him square in the face. He had that ‘Fata look’ — smug,” said Steven Skrzypczak.

    Steve Skrzypczak, 68, was told he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Fata implanted a mediport in his chest and gave him 25 treatments with one chemo drug in six months, Skrzypczak said.

    After Fata’s arrest in 2013, Skrzypczak went to two other oncologists who told him that he’d never had cancer.

    “I want him to get life,” the ex-patient said of the doctor.

    In a pre-sentencing memo, prosecutors say 553 people allegedly got unnecessary treatment from Fata — amounting to 9,000 injections or infusions that cost insurance companies and patients millions. Some of the patients weren’t even sick; others were so ill the treatments did more harm than good, prosecutors say.

    ——-

    PHPs should face the same accountability for false diagnoses and forced ‘treatment’

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Michael; It seems to me that under the guise of “addiction treatment”,what these programs actually force on you is a form of brain washing or indoctrination. Why this is considered good psych treatment is beyond me. As people continue to laud Bill Wilson and Dr.Bob Smith,it should be remembered that they did use coersion. Br Bob talks about keeping on at people until they give in. That is just what PHS’s goal is. And I don’t know about you but what I often resent most is being bored to death. Beth

    Liked by 2 people

    • Gosh you guys, if there’s one thing I am against, it’s forced “care.” Actually, force in general. I am laughing now, since I consider myself very much a non-alcoholic. If I try drinking it, I sneeze. Then, I don’t get drunk at all. I get a bad tummy ache and headache for about 24 hours from drinking only a few spoonfuls. It doesn’t even put me to sleep! It won’t remove my inhibitions. It won’t act as “social lubricant.” I already do not fear public speaking and if I drank alcohol, I’d sneeze all the way through my speech.

      That said, I LOVED AA. So did my late boyfriend. He went by choice, though. He didn’t always feel like going and for a while didn’t go. I went simply for the jokes and the coffee and to hang with my boyfriend. For a while I wanted to take my eating disorder back to the store where I bought it and exchange it for alcoholism. I figured it was a much better deal. So one day, I went. They told me, “No exchanges without a sales receipt.” What would that be? An old size zero pair of jeans? Maybe my last name “looks Irish,” but it’s really Jewish. I’m serious, it was Grunstien.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. These programs such as the PHP and dental counterparts act like they are in total control of your life. The programs abuse can be explained with the Stanford Prison Experiment research date (look it up). There was unexpected abuses by the prison guards (students in the study) and the experiment was quickly ended. There are so many similarities between the research (SPE) and what I have experience and read with these recovery centers and programs. Instead of encouragement we got labeled as losers in denial. I just can’t tell you how destructive these places are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, in reply to Jeffrey regarding institutional cruelty and the Stanford Prison Experiment, this also explains the “sitter abuse.” If anyone doesn’t know what “sitters” are, these are low paid hospital and nursing home workers employed by an outside agency mostly, who “watch” patients who are at fall risk or suicide risk. A 2009 ruling stated that sitters could only be used if patients were at extreme risk of suicide or falls. Otherwise, 1:1 monitoring was either of no benefit or increased the risk, and by all means, was economically wasteful. In my case, I was NOT suicidal. You cannot put sitters on based on speculation only. In fact, Mount Auburn administration knew all along. that I wasn’t suicidal. I was put on suicide precautions because I have been a whistleblower in the past. This was grossly illegal, of course. These sitters are immigrants. Now that I am an immigrant myself I know the pressures they were facing, barely knowing the language, receiving low pay, and being treated like crap already. Yes, of course they abused. They were told I was suicidal and dangerous and an escape risk. Not only that, I was so skinny I looked like hell. Now granted, I couldn’t even raise my limbs, let alone run off. And yes, most nurses are well aware of sitter abuses. For godsakes, they work there, yes, they know. I complained and they told me I was crazy. A couple of sitters tried to help me out and report the others, risking their jobs, and one nurse even tried to get me out (god bless her) but all for naught till an outside agency finally gave me an actual evaluation and I was out the next day. I am told I am extremely fortunate. Also, right away as soon as I got out I “fired” the voluntary state CBFS “services” and I believe that saved my hide as well, down the road. I am telling fellow patients to do the same, since I believe these “services” lead to either state incarceration or AOT, especially for those living below the poverty line like me.

      Liked by 1 person

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