Nosce te ipsum. Nosce inimicum tuum
According to Erich Fromm rational authority is based on competence, experience, and mutual respect. Irrational authority is often disguised as benevolent paternalism and is designed to perpetuate or intensify conditions of inequality through the use or threat of force, deceptiveness, and secretiveness.
The Federation of State Physician Health Programs (FSPHP) has has operated as an unexamined authority for the past 25-years . They have pushed practice and policy unquestioned and without opposition that has gravely harmed individual doctors, the medical profession itself and the public at large. Everything they have done has been done to benefit themselves and their drug and alcohol assessment, testing and treatment affiliates in the provision of protections, power and profits.
Examining the specific practice and policy pushed reveals a body of false-claims making designed to facilitate the systemic use of coercion and threats, remove all due process protections and fundamental rights from physicians and prevent, block and eliminate the evidence. This practice and policy collective has created a culture of impunity, immunity and deference that is able to successfully conceal ethical violations and crimes. Uncovering their wrongdoing is a nearly impenetrable gauntlet. It is a system of institutional injustice that is undoubtedly a major contributor to the suicide epidemic in the profession. They have been able to conceal the truth, avoid investigation and prevent punishment for years by removing themselves from all accountability and outside inquiry. Direct and specific questioning appears to be their Achille’s heel as the recent spat of articles critical of these programs is showing just how much of an illegitimate authority they really are.
In her rebuttal to Pauline Anderson’s article “Physician Health Programs: More Harm Than Good?” FSPHP President Doris Gunderson dismissed the accusations of fraud and abuse in one fell swoop as “allegations rather than facts” and second hand anecdotes. Countering allegations of an absence of oversight and regulation she states:
“In fact, we operate under a microscope, answering to individual practitioners, medical boards, malpractice carriers, defense attorneys, state attorneys, medical societies, hospitals, medical schools and residency training programs. We are also accountable to patient safety entities and a Board of Directors.”
Untrue. Accountability demands both provision of information and justification for actions to outside entities capable of punishing misconduct. . What was done and why? No such entity exists and no pathway for appeal or grievance redressal exists either. Zero accountability. Ditto for the “PHP-approved” assessment and treatment centers. As cash only out-of-pocket facility they remove themselves from the prying eyes of insurers.
The North Carolina PHP Audit found the past FSPHP President and NC PHP director Warren Pendergast could not identify the qualitative or quantitative indicators used for “approving” PHP-approved facilities. The best he could come up with is “reputation” and “word of mouth” yet state medical boards mandate evaluations of doctors at these facilities and specifically exclude non-“PHP-approved” facilities.This is enforced by the Federation of State Medical Boards Policy on Physician Impairment. Each state managed by the FSPHP utilizes the same dozen or so facilities and each state medical board mandates it under threat of disciplinary action. It is in fact a rigged game.
Denying accusations of coercion Gunderson states in her rebuttal to Anderson’s article:
“The detractors of PHPs interviewed for the article maintain that PHPs are coercive. Yet the report fails to mention that PHPs have no authority to mandate treatment and monitoring, suspend or revoke licensure, or otherwise discipline physicians.”
The report fails to mention it because it is more either/or logical fallacy based on the false dichotomy between “treatment” and “punishment” that is often used to promote the FSPHP mythology. Although PHPs do not have the legal authority to mandate, suspend or revoke a license they have the functional authority to do so. This is also dictated by public policy. (ASAM Policy on Coordination Between Treatment Providers, Professionals Health Programs, and Regulatory Agencies).
Legitimate authority articulates ethical, evidence-based, or internally consistent arguments when challenged. Legitimate authority does not simply delegitimize one’s opponent and use logical fallacy and obfuscation to avoid addressing the substance of an argument. In her rebuttal Gunderson claims the NC Audit was favorable to them because no evidence of abuse was found. This is akin to a serial killer claiming victory because no bodies were found in his dungeon replete with torture devices and restraints. State auditor Beth Wood set this straight when she told the BMJ in Physician Health Programs Under Fire that the holes were big enough in the program “you could drive a truck through them” and it would be “difficult, if not impossible, to defend” oneself against an incorrect assessment” as no ability to “appeal a diagnosis or assessment” existed.
“Compounding the problem, said Wood, was that “the chief executive and medical director were in total control of entire process.” They assessed allegedly impaired doctors, but when those assessments were contested, they were responsible for presenting complaints to the state medical board. The doctors concerned were not allowed to be present and were not allowed to see the programs’ medical reports on them.”
Multiple Barriers Removing Accountability at Multiple Levels
The inability to obtain one’s own medical records or lab reports is the first obstacle one must overcome. The second barrier is that even if documents are obtained there is no one to give them to. The third is the existence of “point people” who deflect, block and otherwise dismiss valid complaints. The only oversight provided to the involved labs is an an accreditation agency, the College of American Pathologists (CAP) They can investigate and correct but do not have the ability to sanction.
Of the many hundreds of doctors I have spoken to and who have taken my survey not one has been able to obtain evidence of abuse. It was either refused, censored or doctored. I have obtained documentary evidence that is specific, detailed and unequivocal.
It is therefore critical it be recognized for what it shows and it is morally imperative that those involved be held to account as the documents illustrate clearly and undeniably a collusion between a state PHP and its drug testing lab to fabricate evidence. The corruption is top-down as it involves another former FSPHP President Luis Sanchez and the VP of Laboratory operations at USDTL Joseph Jones. As explicit and detailed as it is in revealing unequivocal black and white crimes it has been ignored by the usual channels.
Research on street criminals suggests the certainty of punishment has the strongest deterrent effect (basically will I be caught) and the more people think they will be arrested for a crime the less likely they are to commit it. Criminals weigh their actions against possible gains and consequences and the risk of consequences in this system have been essentially zero. Diagnosis rigging, coercion, threats and abuse are rampant because they have no fear of punishment. The Chairman of the commission that examined the causes of the 2008 financial collapse compared the relatively small fines paid by corporations to “someone who robs a 7-Eleven, takes $1,000 and being able to settle for $25 and no admission of wrongdoing.” He added,“Will they do it again? Absolutely, because it pays.” This is like someone who robs a 7-Eleven, takes $1,000 and never gets caught so he goes to the next 7-Eleven and takes $2000 then hits as many 7-Elevens as he can for as much as he can. There is zero-accountability. No fines. No repercussions. No risk. What has happened is not only logical but inevitable. It is time to name the enemy. The enemy is not state physician health programs (PHPs) but those in charge of them. The Federation of State Physician Health Programs (FSPHP) is a heretofore unexamined authority. Current evidence is revealing the FSPHP is also an irrational authority. It is also quite easy to show by historical documentation of the policy and practice they have pushed that they are an illegitimate authority. Illegitimate authority when identified and recognized needs to be removed.
Nosce te ipsum. Nosce inimicum tuum. Know thyself, know thy enemy. The FSPHP is the enemy. They cannot be bargained with. They need to be removed. In the interim we need to set up advocacy and watchdog groups to help and protect those already caught in this web of manipulation, oppression and fear. Wake up, Stand up and Speak up. Silence is consent. Let’s drain this swamp in 2017.
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