Forensic Fraud Beyond Annie Dookhan–It’s Time to Wake up to the Reality of Systemic Corruption Between State Physician Health Programs (PHPs) and Drug-Testing Labs.

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The attached documents show the Massachusetts physician health program ( PHP), Physician Health Services, inc. (PHS) and a commercial drug testing lab United States Drug Testing Labs, inc. (USDTL) engaging in red-handed flagrant forensic fraud.

This is not lone-nut  Annie Dookhan drug-testing falsification  but misconduct indicative of top-down systemic corruption done via fax and thus appears to be standard operating procedure.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 8.19.51 AMThe documents herein are part of a “litigation packet” (the documented chain-of-custody required for all forensic testing) for an alcohol biomarker test (PEth) drawn July 1, 2011 and reported as a positive on July 19, 2011 to the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine (” Board”).  The “litigation packet”  is considered a legal document and it is generated in real time to document where, and under what conditions a given specimen is at a given time.

The documents here include  a faxed memo from PHS to USDTL 7/19/2011 requesting an identifying ID#  and a “chain of custody” be added to an already positive test.  Seldom is a document available that shows how the perpetrators of laboratory fraud do it–this is complete from start to finish.

A chain of custody is generated in real time. It cannot be done retroactively.

To do so constitutes fraud.

With no compunction, concern, or consternation this sociopathic mercenary subordinates science in order to put coins in his purse and complies with this improper request and adds a unique ID number to an already positive specimen.

Moreover, when the test was questioned the, PHP requested that USDTL support the test as a valid positive. And Joseph Jones did so with full knowledge there was no chain-of-custody and the ID # and date of collection were added.  The alliance is consistent with a civil conspiracy and the crimes are felonious.

The act is also flagrantly antithetical to the process of Medical Review Officer (MRO) review —one of the basic tenets required of all forensic drug tests and requisite to report one as positive.

But like an arsonist firefighter,  Jones does the exact opposite of what he is supposed to.   With complete disregard of the basic codes of conduct and MRO guidelines he reports as positive a test that would not meet the minimum requirements for an at home over-the -counter clinical lab to consumer test let alone let alone one of forensic import.

A test with multiple fatal flaws and no chain of custody, no collection date,and absent any clue of a unique identifier was in fact reported as a positive to please a client.  It is egregious, indefensible, and unconscionable.  It is illegal.  Most importantly it is immoral.

Positive drug and alcohol tests can end lifetime careers, tear apart families, and trigger suicides. And I am hearing of more and more suicides caused by these laboratory tests done by Dr. Jones and corrupt illegitimate authority like Dr. Sanchez.

The consequences are grave and far reaching.  An organizational culture capable of willing participation and continued support of forensic fraud cannot be trusted.

Cognizant that the consequences to the donor are significant and possibly irreversible and catastrophic exhibits a careless disregard for truth that is unconscionable.  That this was done without hesitation or thought is egregious.

It is purposeful and with undeniable malice. It represents institutional and sinister corruption. And it exemplifies the top-down sociopathic, predatory, and uncaring organizational culture that is undermining democracy and eroding civil liberties.

But the most disturbing fact of this is that those who should do something about it blind themselves.

The Board of Registration in Medicine protects Dr. Sanchez. He is apparently allowed to commit any crimes he wants and it is worth reading through all of the documentation as he compounds felonies over time.

The political abuse of psychiatry and false diagnoses are acts that violate the most basic and fundamental medical and social ethical codes. They should be met with zero tolerance by the medical community as well as society at large.

Remarkably the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services is also aware of this. Apparently learning nothing from the Annie Dookhan case, certain individuals have hemmed and hawed for over six months without any response in a torpid stasis.  As protectors of the public health one would think there would be some urgency to address the fact that a state contracted agency is engaging in undeniable laboratory misconduct and fraud.

The crimes are many and include state and federal crimes as well as violation of the HIPAA criminal statute as they changed a “forensic” sample to “clinical” in order to bypass chain of custody. They then changed it back to “forensic” and misrepresented it as such up until recently.

This needs to get be addressed outside the medical profession.  As  a society and culture within a society and culture the  prevalence of thinking has become destructive rather than ameliorative under the influence of the “impaired physicians movement.”    The ease with which pernicious ideas and attitudes have pervaded the regulatory and organizational and regulatory culture of medicine is frightening.

The fact that medical boards and public health department are aware of criminal acts being committed  by this “authority” yet do nothing to address its existence will inevitably lead to worse .

If dictatorships can be defined as systems in which there is a prevalence of thinking in destructive rather than ameliorative terms then the “physician wellness” paradigm” shoe fits.    There are multiple warning signs that the profession of medicine is becoming subordinated to the guiding philosophy of the “physician wellness” movement,

One thing is for certain.  There should be zero-tolerance for forensic fraud perpetrated by those in positions of power.   Any intentional laboratory fraud guided by malice is egregious but the scope and severity of what was done here involving collusion to fabricate evidence to coverup the crime, and concealment of the truth when the lab was forced to correct the test by an outside agency is  particularly egregious.    The fact that Dr. Luis Sanchez hid the fact that he was made aware of the corrected test on October 4, 2012 and  reported non-compliance with requirements that directly resulted from that very test for “damage control” under “color of law” is unconscionable.   But the fact that he did these things and lied about it is undeniable.  The facts are self-evident.

This is much worse than Annie Dookhan as her victims were abstractions.  She did not see the damage that resulted from her laboratory misconduct.  These people knew what they were doing, knew it was wrong and did it anyway.   And unlike Annie Dookhan, Sanchez saw the damage he was causing as that was his intent.

As far as I can find, these documents are the most elaborate and complete representation of the mechanics of forensic fraud. They show the sequential steps between the party requesting it and the response of the complicit lab.  The documents illustrate how easy laboratory misconduct is accomplished and the moral detachment of the involved parties.  The fact that it involves top-down corruption cannot be overestimated.

The most obvious crime is the violation of M.G.L 156 (B) section 69 involving reporting false statements.

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The fact that this was test was ordered as a “forensic” specimen then changed to a “clinical” specimen makes it a HIPPA violation as changing it to “clinical” created  “protected health information” (PHI).     In fact, the only reason I was able to obtain the October 4, 2012 document proving Dr. Sanchez lied was due to a change in the HIPPA-Privacy Rule enabling “patients’ to obtain laboratory results without authorization from the agency that ordered it.   Without this allowance Sanchez would still be maintaining he did not find out about the correction until December.   Well the documentary proof shows he lied.

Moreover, PHS is not a treatment provider and cannot order clinical specimens.  It is an ultra viresact outside of their designated scope of authority as a non-profit organization.

What Sanchez did here is also in violation of the HIPAA criminal statute.

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The elements of a criminal offense under HIPAA are fairly straightforward.  To commit a “criminal offense” under HIPAA, a person must knowingly and in violation of the HIPAA rules do one (or more) of the following three things.:  use or cause to be used a unique health identifier, obtain individually identifiable health information relating to an individual or disclose individually identifiable health information to another  person.   Criminal penalties under HIPAA, tiered in accordance with the seriousness of the offense, range from a fine of up to $50,000 and/or imprisonment up to a year for a simple violation to a fine up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment up to five years for an offense committed under a false pretense and a fine up to $250000 and/or imprisonment up to ten years for an offense committed with intent to sell, transfer, or use individually identifiable health information for commercial advantage , personal gain, or malicious harm.

Requesting the sample be changed to “clinical” created PHI and the fact that it was under false pretense and intended to cause malicious harm is quite evident.

Although PHS is not a covered entity Quest Diagnostics is and as a business associate they can be linked by the conspiracy statute:

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And that is why outside forces need to be involved. These are serious crimes and they have created serious consequences.  I have heard of multiple suicides in doctors caused by these tests.  How many doctors have died as a result of Jones colluding with  individuals just like Sanchez?   The results of these tests can have grave, far reaching and even permanent consequences.  They can ruin careers and destroy families.   Sanchez and Jones know this.  Their moral disengagement here shows an absence of empathy and complete disregard of what consequences may result.

The Board of Registration in Medicine is protecting Dr. Sanchez and the DPH has its head in the sand.

It is my understanding that groups like PHS have led law enforcement to believe that all matters involving doctors should be handled by the medical community.  This has created barriers as doctors reporting crimes have found it difficult to get them investigated or even reported let alone charged.

Law enforcement needs to address this. This needs to be exposed.

.I have been told that in other states where similar situations exist in which the truth is unable to penetrate the proper channels it should go directly to the Governor.

I would like to get these documents to Governor Charlie Baker and any help in making this happen would be appreciated.

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“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”
― Thomas Paine 

USDTL drug testing laboratory claims to advance the”Gold Standard in Forensic Toxicology.”  “Integrity: Results that you can trust, based on solid science” is listed as a corporate value. “Unlike other laboratories, our drug and alcohol testing begins and ends with strict chain of custody.” “When people’s lives are on the line, we don’t skip steps.”  Joseph Jones, Vice President of Laboratory Operations explains the importance of chain-of-custody in this USDLT videopresentation.

Dr. Luis Sanchez, M.D. recently published an article entitled Disruptive Behaviors Among Physicians in the Journal of the American Medical Association discussing the importance of  of a “medical culture of safety” with “clear expectations and standards.”  Stressing the importance of values and codes-of-conduct in the practice of medicine, he calls on physician leaders  “commit to professional behavior.”

Sanchez is Past President of the Federation of State Physician Health Programs (FSPHP).  According to their website the FSPHP “serves as an educational resource about physician impairment, provides advocacy for physicians and their health issues at local, state, and national levels, and assists state programs in their quest to protect the public.”  In addition the FSPHP “helps to establish monitoring standards.”  The FSPHP is the umbrella organization of the individual State PHPs.

Sanchez is also the previous Medical Director of the Massachusetts state PHP, Physician Health Services, Inc. (PHS).  According to their website PHS is a “nonprofit corporation that was founded by the Massachusetts Medical Society to address issues of physician health. PHS is designed to help identify, refer to treatment, guide, and monitor the recovery of physicians and medical students with substance use disorders, behavioral health concerns, or mental or physical illness.

PHPs recommend referral of physicians if there are any concerns such as getting behind on medical records.  As PHS Associate DirectorJudith Eaton explains “when something so necessary is not getting done, it is prudent to explore what else might be going on.”  If the PHP feels that doctor needs an assessment they will send that doctor to a “PHP-approved” facility “experienced in the assessment and treatment of health care professionals.” The physician must comply with any and all recommendations of the assessment center.  To assure this the physician must sign a monitoring contract with the PHP (usually five years). USDTL is one of the labs PHPs have contracted with for forensic drug and alcohol testing.


Forensic Drug and Alcohol Tests: The Need For Integrity and Accountability of the Sample

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“Forensic” drug-testing differs from “clinical” drug-testing in how the results are used. “Clinical” tests are used for medical purposes in diagnosing and treating a patient.

A “forensic” test is used for  non-medical purposes.  It is not used for patient care, but for detecting licit and illicit substances in those who should not be using them. Pre-employment and employee assistance and professional monitoring programs are examples.Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 2.17.18 AM

Forensic testing is held to a higher standards because the consequences of a positive result can be grave and far reaching. A positive forensic test can result in loss of rights of the individual being tested and his or her loved ones. Mistakes are unacceptable.

The Federation of State Medical Boards Policy on Physician Impairment supports this position stating “chain-of-custody forensic testing is critical” (page 14) and the “use of a Medical Review Officer (MRO) for screening samples and confirming sample results” (page 21).

Any and all drug testing requires chain-of-custody. The custody-and-control form is given the status of a legal document because it has the ability to invalidate a test that lacks complete information.  Chain-of-custody provides assures specimen integrity. It provides accountability. 

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 7.25.46 PM The job of the MRO is to ensure that the drug testing process is followed to the letter and reviews the Custody and Control form for accuracy.  The MRO also rules out any other possible explanations for a positive test (such as legitimately prescribed medications).  Only then is the test reported as positive.

The legal issues involved in forensic testing mandate MRO review. According to The Medical Review Officer Manual for Federal Workplace Drug Testing ProgramsScreen Shot 2013-12-19 at 12.20.46 PM

the sole responsibility of the MRO is to”ensure that his or her involvement in the review and interpretation of results is consistent with the regulations and will be forensically and scientifically supportable.”

“Fatal flaws” such as lack of chain-of-custody form, missing tamper proof seal, missing signatures, or a mismatch of the sample ID and chain of custody ID invalidate the test.   It is not reported.  Tight chain-of-custody and MRO review is critical for the accountability and integrity of the sample.

The Medical Review Officer Certification Council  provides a certification process for MROs. TheyScreen Shot 2014-04-30 at 12.47.25 PMalso  follow their own Code of Ethics.   In accordance with these standards PHS has an MRO to review all positive tests.  As added assurance the FSPHP guidelines state that all positive tests must be approved by the Medical Director.


Regulation and the Medical Profession–The need for Integrity and Accountability in Physician Leadership and Health Care Policy.

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Good leadership requires correct moral and ethical behavior of both the individual and the organization. .  Integrity is necessary for establishing relationships of trust.  It requires a true heart and an honest soul.  People of integrity instinctively do the “right thing” in any and all circumstances.  The majority of doctors belong to this group.

Adherence to ethical codes of the profession is a universal obligation.  It excludes all exceptions.  Without ethical integrity, falsity will flourish.

The documents below show fraud. It is intentional.  All parties involved knew what they were doing, knew it was wrong but did it anyway.  The schism between pious rhetoric and reality is wide.

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The  July 19th, 2011 fax from PHS seen below is in reference to the lab report from USDTL seen above.  In it PHS requests the report be “updated”to donor ID number “1310” and  to “reflect that the chain of custody was maintained.”

The lab report is a positive test for the alcohol biomarker (Phosphatidyl Ethanol) or PEth, an alcohol biomarker introduced by the Federation of State Physician Health programs and marketed by USDTL and other labs to detect  covert alcohol use..

There is no record of where, when or by whom it was collected.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 11.17.32 PMBoth the donor ID # and chain of custody are listed as 461430.

The purpose of chain-of-custody is to document the location of  a specimen in real time.  “Updating” it is not an option.  It is prohibited.  Updating the “chain of custody to reflect that chain of custody was maintained”  is a clear indicator that it was not maintained.

ID #1310 is the unique identifier I was issued by PHS.  It is used as a unique identifier, just like a name or social security number, to link me to any sample collected for random drug and alcohol screening. #1310 identifies me as me in the chain-of-custody.    On July 1st, 2011 I had a blood test collected at Quest Diagnostics.

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The sample was collected at Quest Diagnostics on July 1, 2011 but these documents were not obtained until December 3, 2011 and were included in the “litigation packet” which documents chain-of-custody and is generated on any and all forensic drug testing.   It provides proof that the test was done on who it was supposed to have been done and that all required procedure and protocol was followed. It protects the donor form being falsely accused of illicit substance use.  In most employee drug-testing programs the litigation-packet is provided on request immediately.  It is a transparent process.  This is not the case, however, at PHS.

I requested the litigation packet immediately after the positive test was reported on July 19, 2011.  PHS first refused, then tried to dissuade me.  They finally agreed but warned there would be “unintended consequences.    The entire litigation packet can be seen here:   Litigation Packet 12:3:2011

The positive sample has no chain-of-custody linked to me, no date, and no indication where it was collected or who collected it.   In addition there was no “external” chain of custody for the sample. The custody-and-control form was missing.

With multiple fatal flaws (6/6)  rendering it invalid, USDTL should have rejected it by their own written protocol.

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USDTL did not reject it. The document below shows that USDTL added my ID # 1310 and added a collection date of July 1, 2011–the day I submitted the sample.

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“REVISED REPORT PER CLIENTS REQUEST”  

And in doing so the lab that claims “integrity” and “strict chain of custody” readily, and with no apparent compunction” manufactured a chain-of-custody and added a unique identifier by faxed request.

The litigation packet was signed by Joseph Jones on December 3, 2011.   There was no record of where the sample was from July 1st to July 8, 2011. No external chain-of-custody or custody-and-control form was evident in the litigation packet.

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The V.P. for Laboratory operations for the lab that claims “strict chain of custody” and that “doesn’t skip steps” “when “peoples lives are on the line” verified a positive test as positive with no custody and control form, no external chain of custody and 6/6 fatal flaws.  What is so shocking is that  this was done without compunction or pause.  As a forensic test ordered by a monitoring program Jones knew full well it would result in significant consequences for someone.  He knew that someones “life was on the line,” knew it was wrong, and did it anyway.

A person of conscience would never do this.  It is unethical decision making  that goes against professional and societal norms.  A “moral disengagement” that represents a lack of empathy and a callous disregard for others.  I would not consider doing something like this for any price and here it appears to be standard operating procedure.

PHS reported the positive test to the Medical Board on July 19, 2011 Positive PEth July 19, 2011-1.  It was used as a stepping-stone to request an evaluation at one of three  “PHP-approved” facilities (Marworth, Hazelden and Bradford). The Medical Directors of all three facilities can be seen on this list list called “Like-Minded Docs.”  The MRO for PHS, Dr.Wayne Gavryck,  whose job was to review the chain-of-custody and validate its integrity before reporting it as positive is also on the list.  See this simplified schematic of how it works in Massachusetts.  It shows how this is a rigged game.

Expecting to be diagnosed with a non-existent problem and admitted for non-needed treatment I requested an evaluation at a non-12 step facility with no conflicts-of-interest.  Both PHS and the Medical Board refused this request in one of four violations of the Establishment Clause of the 1st amendment.

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I chose Hazelden.  The Medical Director was aware that I had just signed  a patent license agreement for an epinephrine auto-injector and he had a child with a peanut allergy.  We talked about the device and discussed the problems with current management.  I think it was because of this added personal interaction that he did not “tailor my diagnosis” as PHS most certainly requested.  Seeing me as a person rather than an object, I believe,  enabled his conscience to reject it. My discharge diagnosis found no history of alcohol issues but they could not explain the positive test. Unable to rule out that I drank in violation of my PHS contract they recommended I attend AA.

PHS mandated that I attend 3 12-step meetings per week and requested that I obtain names and phone numbers of fellow attendees so they could contact them to verify my attendance.  They also mandated that I discontinue my asthma inhalers (as the propellant contains small amounts of ethanol) that had been controlling my asthma and preventing serious attacks for the previous ten years.  I was threatened that if I had to use the inhalers or one day late on the increased payments I would be reported to the Board and lose my license.

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Sanchez states that my request for the “litigation packet” was processed on December 5, 2011 (two days after Jones signed off on it) and adds the “testing laboratory is willing to support the test results.”

In the interim I filed a complaint with the College of American Pathologists.  I also requested the missing external chain of custody documents from Quest.

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I never received the chain of custody from Quest.  Instead I received a letter from Nina Tobin, Compliance Manager for Quest documenting all the errors but written to sound as if some sort of protocol was maintained.  Tobin claimed the specimen was inadvertently logged as a clinical specimen but sent on to USDTL a week later.  (See Quest Letter )

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The Chief of Toxicology at MGH wrote a letter to the Board documenting all of the misconduct and irregularities stating that it was an “intentional act” perpetrated by PHS.  MLLv3finalJacob_Hafter_Esq_copy.

This letter, as well as the opinions of everyone outside of PHS was ignored. So too were any opinions of my two former Associate Directors at PHS.   The e-mail below dated October 10th, 2011 is to to Drs. John Knight and J. Wesley Boyd and I am referring to their article Ethical and Managerial Considerations Regarding State Physician Health Programs  that was about to be published. We had hoped that it would draw more attention to the problems with PHPs.

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I was subsequently reported as “non-compliant” with AA meetings.    They could not give any details of where or when.  They then misrepresented a declaration of fact (I stated that I had started going to a specific meeting on a specific date) as an admission of guilt by saying I was referring to a different meeting.     10:23:12 PHS Letter to BORM-noncompliance.

My Chief at MGH, his Chief and others held a  conference with PHS and attempted to remove me from PHS and replace the monitoring contract with one of their own.  They refused.   When confronted with the fabricated test they dismissed it and focused on sending me to Kansas to one of the “disruptive physician” Psikhuskas where they are using polygraphs (despite the AMAs stance that it is junk science) and non-validated neuropsychological instruments that detect “character defects” to pathologize the normal.

I refused. Had I gone to Kansas I would have been given a false diagnosis and my career would be over. This is what they do.

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Amy Daniels, the investigator for the College of American Pathologists contacted me in December of 2012 to see how things were going since USDTL “amended” the test.  Daniels told me that the College of American Pathologists confirmed my allegations and, as an Accrediting Agency for Forensic Toxicology mandated that USDTL correct it.  (Labs can lose accreditation if they do not comply with CAP  Standards for Forensic Drug Testing). This was done on October 4, 2012.

PHS denied any knowledge of an amended test.  I also wrote an e-mail to Joseph Jones requesting the document but he did not reply.

I contacted CAP.   On December 11, 2012 Dr. Luis Sanchez wrote a letter stating  “Yesterday, December 10 2012, Physician Health Services (PHS) received a revision to a laboratory test result”

 “The amended report indicates that the external chain of custody protocol [for that sample] was not followed per standard protocol]” 

Sanchez dismisses this test as irrelevant, rationalizing neither PHS nor the Board based any actions on the test and they would “continue to disregard” it.

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The  logic is that it was my behavior that resulted in any consequences.  My “non-compliance” in October led to my suspension and the test had nothing to do with it.   The sole reason for reporting me to the Board in 2011 was the positive test.  There is no other pretext to use.  It is misattribution of blame as without the test, now invalidated, there would have been no AA meetings to say I was non-compliant with.

In response to a civil complaint PHS, Quest and USDTL all took the position that the results of the fraudulent testing had absolutely nothing to do with anything.

And in response to the allegations of forensic fraud the labs claimed there was no forensic fraud because this was not a “Forensic” test but a “clinical” test.     The argument was that “clinical” tests do not require chain-of-custody and it was his behavior not these tests that resulted in consequences.   

As a “clinical” test I knew it was considered Protected Health Information (PHI)  under the HIPAA-Privacy Rule.  A patient must give written consent for any outside entities to see it.  Obtaining lab tests previously required the consent of both the patient and the ordering provider.  What PHS and the labs were apparently unaware of was the changes to the HIPAA-Privacy rule giving patients increased rights to access their PHI.   The changes removed the ordering provider requirements.  A patient has a right to obtain lab test results directly from the labs and has 30 days to do it.  CAP agreed.   USDTL sent me all of the documents.  They can be seen below:

August 6, 2014 to Langan with health materials.

The documents sent by USDTL are notable for two things:

1.  The e-mail from me to Joseph Jones dated December 10, 2012.  It can be seen on page 22 of the USDTL documents.  Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 11.21.18 AM

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2. USDTL document confirming PHS knew the test was amended 67-days before they said they did.Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 4.50.02 PM

The document shows PHS and Sanchez were aware of the invalidity of the test on October 4, 2012.   Instead of correcting things they initiated machinations to throw me under the bus.  They officially reported me to the Board for non-compliance on October 19, 2012.

The December 11, 2012 letter signed by Sanchez states “Yesterday, December 10, 2012, PHS received a “revised report” regarding the test.  The documents show he knew about it 67-days prior.

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Although USDTL complied with the HIPAA-Privacy Rule and CAP, Quest did not.   Quest Diagnostics refused to send me copies of their lab reports claiming it was confidential and protected information that required PHS consent.  Quest required I sign a consent form with multiple stipulations regarding PHS.  I refused and contacted the Department of Justice -Office of Civil Rights.  The DOJ-OCR agreed with me and I received the Quest documents

Remember a “clinical” test can only be ordered by a physician in the course of medical treatment.  It requires authorization from the patient to obtain a “clinical” specimen and it requires written authorization as to who sees it.  Referring physician was Mary Howard.

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And below is the fax from PHS to Quest from July 1, 2011 also requested by Mary Howard.  The signature on the front is not mine.  In addition I gave the blood at 9:30 and was in my clinic at MGH at 12:23 so it couldn’t be. The WC 461430 R are dated July 2, 2011.  This is a “clinical” not “forensic” sticker.  The “R” indicates a red top tube.  The other sticker is USDTL and indicates it was logged in on July 8, 2011.

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What does it all mean?    Blood left in a red top tube ferments. This is basic chemistry.  The PEth test needs to be refrigerated and shipped overnight to prevent this.  In addition it needs to be collected with a non-alcohol wipe in a tube that has an anti-coagulant or preservative so that it does not ferment.    It requires strict procedure and protocol.

When I gave my blood on July 1st, 2011 it was as a “forensic” test per my contractual agreement with PHS.

On July 2, 2011 it was changed to “clinical.”   Why?  because “forensic” protocol would have invalidated it.

The only conceivable reason for doing this was to bypass chain-of-custody procedures.  My unique identifier #1310 was removed and the clinical specimen number was used for chain-of-custody.    The R in 461430R indicates a red top tube.

By holding on to it for one week the blood fermented.    As it was July with an average temperature close to 90 they overshot their mark a bit.   My level of 365 is consistent with heavy alcohol use–end stage half-gallon a day type drinking.

Quest then forwarded it to USDTL with specific instructions to process it as a “clinical” sample.  USDTL complied and  processed it as a clinical specimen which was reported it to PHS on July 14, 2011.

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PHS then asked USDTL to add my forensic  ID # 1310 and add a collection date of July 1, 2011 so it would appear “forensic” protocol was followed.    The reason Jones signed the “litigation packet” on December 3, 2011 was because that was when the “litigation packet” was manufactured.  A “clinical” sample does not produce one.

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USDTL willingly complied with this request.

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PHS then reported this as a “forensic” test to the Medical Board on July 19, 2011 and requested a reevaluation.

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The distinction between “forensic” and “clinical” drug and alcohol testing is black and white. PHS is a monitoring program not a treatment provider. The fact that a monitoring agency with an MRO asked the lab to process and report it as a clinical sample and then used it forensically is an extreme outlier in terms of forensic fraud. The fact that they collected it forensically, removed the forensic components and let it sit in a warehouse for a week is  abhorrent.  The fact they then specifically requested it be processed as a clinical sample deepens the malice. The fact that they then reported it to the Board as a forensic sample and maintained it was forensic up until just recently makes it egregious. But the fact that the test was changed from “positive” to “invalid” on October 4th, 2012 and they then reported me to the Board on October 8th,  2012 for “noncompliance,” suppressed it and tried to send me to Kansas where I would be given a non-existent diagnosis to delegitimize me for damage control makes it wantonly egregious.  This is political abuse of psychiatry.

Accountability requires both the provision of information and justification of what was done.

For doctors it is very difficult to obtain the information. As seen here, they put up a gauntlet to prevent the provision of what is immediate in all other drug testing programs.  I now have all of the information. What it shows is clear. This was intentional.  It was no accident.  They knew what they were doing, knew it was wrong but did it anyway.

Accountability also requires that those who commit misconduct suffer consequences. The PHPs have also put up barriers to this.    With no regulation or oversight they have no apparent accountability.

My understanding is that it works this way.   The Medical Board, Medical Society and Departments of Public Health have no oversight.   The MMS has an ethics committee but all they can do is “educate” the person if they feel there was a violation.  The DPH won’t even look at it and the Board is complicit.

My understanding is that they have convinced law enforcement that this is a “parochial” issue that is best kept within the medical community.  They have also created the impression that they are “friends” of law enforcement.  I have heard from many doctors that they have tried to report misconduct, civil rights violations and crimes to the police, AGO, and other law enforcement agencies only to be turned back over to the PHP.     By saying the physician is “impaired” it delegitimizes and invalidates the truth.  “He’s just a sick doctor,  we’ll take care of him.”  That physician then suffers consequences effectively silencing the rest.

PHS uses the Board to enforce punitive measures and temporize.   The Board puts blind faith in PHS.  Blind faith that defies common sense ( mandating phone numbers at anonymous meetings)  and disregards the law (Establishment Clause violations that are clear and well established).    The Board also temporizes to cause damage.

In my case they required a psychiatric behavioral evaluation.  I was given the choice of Kansas and a few other Like-minded assessment centers.

After petitioning for  multiple qualified psychiatrists that were summarily rejected months later for no reason one of the Board Attorneys suggested  Dr. Patricia Recupero, M.D., J.D. who is Board Certified in Forensic Psychiatry and Addiction Psychiatry.   The Board had used her in the past but not recently.  Seeing that she had been used by the Board for fit-for-duty evaluations in the past the Board accepted my petition.

Dr. Recupero wrote an 87-page report. She concluded I was safe to practice medicine without supervision, that I had never had an alcohol use, abuse or dependence problem, and that PHS request for phone numbers was inappropriate. She also documented PHS misconduct throughout my contract and concluded it was PHS actions, not mine, that led to my suspension.   What she describes is consistent with criminal harassment.  She documents the falsification of neuropsychological tests and confirms the forensic fraud.  What did the Board do?  Ignored their very own recommended and approved evaluator.

One measure of integrity is truthfulness to words and deeds.  These people claim professionalism, ethics and integrity.  The documents show otherwise.  The careers and lives of doctors are in these peoples hands.

Similar fraud is occurring across the country.  This is an example of the institutional injustice that is killing physicians.  Finding themselves entrapped with no way out, helpless and hopeless they are feeling themselves bereft of any shade of  justice and killing themselves.  These are nothing more than bullies and accountability is essential.  The “disruptive physician” moral panic has harmed the Medical Profession.

Dr. Clive Body in his book  Corporate Psychopaths   writes that “Unethical leaders create unethical followers, which in turn create unethical companies and society suffers as a result.”  And according to Dr. Robert Hare in  Without Conscience  “If we can’t spot them, we are doomed to be their victims, both as individuals and as a society. ”

Wes Boyd notes that valid complaints from physicians are often dismissed as “bellyaching” by the PHPs.  Complacent that these are just good guys helping doctors and protecting the public the complaints are dismissed, tabled, deflected or otherwise ignored.  Bellyaching??   Is this bellyaching.

It is my opinion that what you see here is indefensible  Procedurally, Ethically, and Legally.

Procedurally it goes beyond negligence and represents fraud.  It violates every procedural guideline, regulation and standard of care including their very own.

Ethically it violates everything from the Hippocratic Oath to  AMA Medical Ethics to the MRO Code of Conduct.

And where was PHS MRO Wayne Gavryck? By my count he violated at least 4 of the 6 Codes of Ethical Conduct.

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What was done here violates the most fundamental ethical principles of Medicine -Autonomy, Beneficence, Nonmaleficence and justice.

Intentionally falsifying a laboratory or diagnostic test to refer for an evaluation or support a diagnosis or give unwarranted “treatment” is unconscionable.  Abuse under the utility of  medical coloration is especially egregious.

The information provided herein should negate any “peer-review” protection or immunity afforded PHS as it is undeniably and egregiously in “bad faith.” Moreover, the ordering a “clinical” test is outside PHS scope, practice, and function of PHS. According to M.G.L. c. 111, § 203 (c):

An individual or institution, including a licensed or public hospital, physician credentialing verification service operated by a society or organization of medical professionals for the purpose of providing credentialing information to health care entities, or licensed nursing home reporting, providing information, opinion, counsel or services to a medical peer review committee, or participation in the procedures required by this section, shall not be liable in a suit for damages by reason of having furnished such information, opinion, counsel or services or by reason of such participation, provided, that such individual or institution acted in good faith and with a reasonable belief that said actions were warranted in connection with or in furtherance of the function of said committee or the procedures required by this section.

Dr. Luis Sanchez and Dr. Wayne Gavryck need to be held to the same professional standards as the rest of us.

If you can support either of them procedurally, ethically, or legally, any one of them, then I will turn in my medical license with a bow on it.  If they did not commit negligent fraud by standards of care and procedural guidelines, egregious moral disengagement in violation of ALL ethical codes for the medical profession and society and break the law then disprove me.  Just one will do.

But you can’t do this then I ask that you speak up and take a stand. Either defend them or help me hold them accountable.  If a crime is committed it needs to be addressed.  Ignoring encourages more of the same.

And if this cannot be supported procedurally, ethically or legally then I want to know what is going to be done about it?

How low does the moral compass have to go before someone takes action?

Doctors are dying across the country because of people just like this.  They have set up a scaffold that removes the usual checks and balances and removed accountability.   It is this institutional justice that is driving many doctors to suicide.

So the evidence is above.  Either defend them or help me draw unwanted attention to this culture of bullying and abuse. So I am asking you to contemplate if  what you see here is ethically, procedurally or legally sound.   If you can show just one of these then I stand corrected. But if you cannot justify this on any level then I want you to help me expose this criminal enterprise. Either defend it or fight it. Silence and obfuscation are not acceptable.

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The Federation of State Physician Health Programs and the Dead Doctors at Ridgeview-A Harbinger of the Medical Profession’s Current Suicide Epidemic

“There is enormous inertia—a tyranny of the status quo—in private and especially governmental arrangements. Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.” –Milton Friedman

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“Gentlemen, it is a disagreeable custom to which one is too easily led by the harshness of the discussions, to assume evil intentions. It is necessary to be gracious as to intentions; one should believe them good, and apparently they are; but we do not have to be gracious at all to inconsistent logic or to absurd reasoning. Bad logicians have committed more involuntary crimes than bad men have done intentionally.”–Pierre S. du Pont (September 25, 1790)

 “It is easier to believe a lie one has heard a hundred times than a truth one has never heard before.” –Robert S. Lynd

Ridgeview Institute was a drug and alcohol treatment program for “impaired physicians” in Georgia created by G. Douglas Talbott, a former cardiologist who lost control of his drinking and recovered through the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Up until his death on October 18, 2014 at the age of 90, Talbott  owned and directed a number of treatment facilities for impaired professionals, most recently the Talbott Recovery Campus  in Atlanta, one of the preferred referrals for physicians ordered into evaluation and treatment by licensing boards today.

G. Douglas Talbott is a prototypical example of an “impaired physician movement” physician–in fact in many ways he may be considered the”godfather” of the current organization.  He helped organize and serve as past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and was a formative figure in the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) Impaired Physician Program.

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G. Douglas Talbott (center), with sons Mark (left) and Dave (right). (image: Ham Biggar)

The cost of a 28-day program for nonprofessionals at Ridgeview in 1987 was $10,000 while the cost was “higher for those going through impaired-health professionals program,” which lasted months rather than 28 days.1

In 1975 after creating the DeKalb County Impaired Physicians Committee for the Medical Association of Georgia, Talbott founded the Georgia Disabled Doctors Program for the assessment and treatment of physicians. Founded in part because “traditional one-month treatment programs are inadequate for disabled doctors,” and they required longer treatment to recover from addiction and substance abuse.   According to Talbott, rehabilitation programs that evaluate and treat the rest of the population for substance abuse issues are incapable of doing so in doctors as they are unlike any other of the inhabitants of our society. Physicians are unique. Unique because of their incredibly high denial”, and he includes this in what he calls the “Four MDs,” “M-Deity”, “Massive Denial” “Militant Defensiveness” and “More Drugs.”2   And these factors set doctors apart from the rest.

According to Talbott, “impaired doctors must first acknowledge their addiction and overcome their ‘terminal uniqueness’ before they can deal with a drug or alcohol problem.” “Terminal uniqueness “ is a phrase Talbott uses to describe doctors’ tendency to think they can heal themselves.

“M-Deity” refers to doctors “being trained to think they’re God;”3 blinded by an overblown sense of self-importance and thinking that they are invincible-an unfounded generalization considering the vast diversity of individuals that make up our profession.   Although this type of personality does exist in medicine,  it is a small minority -just one of many opinions with little probative value offered as factual expertise by the impaired physician movement and now sealed in stone.

Former Assistant Surgeon General (Ret) Admiral (Ret) John C. Duffy

Former Assistant Surgeon General (Ret) Admiral (Ret) John C. Duffy

This attitude, according to some critics, stems from the personal histories of the treatment staff, including Talbott, who are recovering alcoholics and addicts themselves. One such critic was Assistant Surgeon General under C. Everett Koop John C. Duffy who said that Ridgeview suffered from a “boot-camp mentality” toward physicians under their care and “assume every physician suffering from substance abuse is the same lying, stealing, cheating, manipulating individual they were when they had the illness. Certainly some physicians are manipulative, but it’s naïve to label all physicians with these problems.”1

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LeClair Bissell

American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) President (1981-1983) LeClair Bissell was also highly critical of Talbott’s approach. Bissell, co-author of the first textbook of ethics for addiction professionals4 when asked if there was any justification to the claim that doctors are sicker than other people and more vulnerable to addiction replied:

“Well, based on my treatment experience, I think they are less sick and much easier to treat than many other groups. I think one reason for that is that in order to become a physician…one has to have jumped over a great many hurdles. One must pass the exams, survive the screening tests and the interviews, be able to organize oneself well enough to do examinations and so on, and be observed by a good many colleagues along the way. Therefore I think the more grossly psychotic, or sicker, are frequently screened out along the way. The ones we get in treatment are usually people who are less brain-damaged, are still quite capable of learning, are reasonably bright. Not only that, but they are quite well motivated in most cases to hang on to their licenses, the threat of the loss of which is frequently what puts them in treatment in the first place. So are they hard to treat? No! Are they easy patients? Yes! Are they more likely to be addicted than other groups? We don’t know.”5

“I’m not much for the bullying that goes along with some of these programs,” Bissell commented to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution in 1987.3

The constitution did a series of reports after five inpatients died by suicide during a four-year period at Ridgeview.6 In addition there were at least 20 more who had killed themselves over the preceding 12 years after leaving the treatment center.1

Bissell, the recipient of the 1997 Elizabeth Blackwell Award for outstanding contributions to the cause of women and medicine remarked: “When you’ve got them by the license, that’s pretty strong leverage. You shouldn’t have to pound on them so much. You could be asking for trouble.”3

According to Bissell: “There’s a lot of debate in the field over whether treatment imposed by threats is worthwhile…To a large degree a person has to seek the treatment on his own accord before it will work for him.”3

A jury awarded $1.3 million to the widow of one of the deceased physicians against Ridgeview,7 and other lawsuits initiated on behalf of suicides were settled out of court.6

The Constitution reported that doctors entered the program under threats of loss of licensure “even when they would prefer treatment that is cheaper and closer to home.” 8 The paper also noted that Ridgeview “enjoys unparalleled connections with many local and state medical societies that work with troubled doctors,” “licensing boards often seek recommendations from such groups in devising an approved treatment plan,” and those in charge are often “physicians who themselves have successfully completed Ridgeview’s program.”8

In 1997 William L. White interviewed Bissell whom he called “one of the pioneers in the treatment of impaired professionals.” The interview was not published until after her death in 2008 per her request.   Noting that her book Alcoholism in the Professions9 “remains one of the classics in the field”, White asked her when those in the field began to see physicians and other professionals as a special treatment population; to which she replied:

“When they started making money in alcoholism. As soon as insurance started covering treatment, suddenly you heard that residential treatment was necessary for almost everybody. And since alcoholic docs had tons of money compared to the rest of the public, they not only needed residential treatment, they needed residential treatment in a special treatment facility for many months as opposed to the shorter periods of time that other people needed.”10

Talbott claimed a “92.3 percent recovery rate according to information compiled from a five-year follow-up survey based on complete abstinence and other treatment.”11 A 1995 issue of The Federal Bulletin: The Journal of Medical Licensure and Discipline, published by the Federation of State Medical Boards, contains articles outlining impaired physician programs in 8 separate states. Although these articles were little more than descriptive puff-pieces written by the state PHP program directors and included no described study-design or methodology the Editor notes a success rate of about 90% in these programs and others like them 12 and concludes:

“cooperation and communication between the medical boards and the physician health programs must occur in an effort to protect the public while assisting impaired physicians in their recovery.” 12

No one bothered to examine the methodology to discern the validity of these claims and it is this acceptance of faith without objective assessment that has allowed the impaired physician movement through the ASAM and FSPH to advance their agenda;  confusing ideological opinions with professional knowledge.

“There is nothing special about a doctor’s alcoholism,” said Bissel

“These special facilities will tell you that they come up with really wonderful recovery rates. They do. And the reason they do is that any time you can grab a professional person by the license and compel him or her into treatment and force them to cooperate with that treatment and then monitor them for years, you’ll get good outcomes—in the high 80s or low 90s in recovery rates—no matter what else you do.”10
“The ones I think are really the best ones were not specialized. There were other well-known specialty clinics that claimed all the docs they treated got well, which is sheer rot. They harmed a great many people, keeping them for long, unnecessary treatments and seeing to it that they hit their financial bottom for sure: kids being yanked out of college, being forced to sell homes to pay for treatment, and otherwise being blackmailed on the grounds that your husband has a fatal disease. It’s ugly.”10

Stanton Peele’s “In the Belly of the American Society of Addiction Medicine Beast” describes the coercion, bullying, threats and indoctrination that are standard operating procedure in Talbott’s facilities.13  Uncooperative patients, “and this covers a range of sins of commission or omission including offering one’s opinion about one’s treatment,” are “threatened with expulsion and with not being certified-or advocated for with their Boards.”13

The cornerstone of treatment is 12-step spiritual recovery. All new patients are indoctrinated into A.A. and coerced to confess they are addicts or alcoholics. Failure to participate in A.A. and 12-step spirituality means expulsion from the program with the anticipated result being loss of one’s medical license.

In May 1999 Talbott stepped down as president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) as a jury awarded Dr. Leonard Masters a judgment of $1.3 million in actual damages and an undisclosed sum in punitive damages for fraud, malpractice, and the novel claim of false imprisonment.14

The fraud finding required a finding that errors in the diagnosis were intentional. Masters, who was accused of overprescribing narcotics to his patients was told by the director of the Florida PHP that he could either surrender his medical license until the allegations were disproved or submit to a four-day evaluation.

Masters agreed to the latter, thinking he would have an objective and fair evaluation. He was instead diagnosed as “alcohol dependent” and coerced into “treatment under threat of loss of his medical license. Staff would routinely threaten to report any doctor who questioned any aspect of their diagnosis or treatment to their state medical boards “as being an impaired physician, leaving necessary treatment against medical advice,”14  the equivalent of professional suicide.

Masters, however, was not an alcoholic.

According to his attorney, Eric. S. Block,  “No one ever accused him of having a problem with alcohol. Not his friends, not his wife, not his seven children, not his fellow doctors, not his employees, not his employers, No one.” 15

He was released 4 months later and forced to sign a five-year “continuing care” contract with the PHP, also under continued threat of his medical license.

Talbott faced no professional repercussions and no changes in their treatment philosophy or actions were made. They still haven’t.  They have simply tightened the noose and taken steps to remove accountability.

Up until his recent death, Talbott continued to present himself and ASAM as the most qualified advocates for the assessment and treatment of medical professionals for substance abuse and addiction.16

ASAM and like-minds still do.

In most states today any physician referred for an assessment for substance abuse will be mandated to do so in a facility just like Ridgeview.

There is no choice.   In mechanics and mentality, this same system of coercion, control, and indoctrination has metastasized to almost every state only more powerful and opaque in an unregulated gauntlet protected from public scrutiny, answerable and accountable to no one.  Laissez faire Machiavellian egocentricity unleashed.    For what they have done is taken the Ridgeview model and replicated it over time state by state and tightened the noose.  By subverting the established Physician Health Programs (PHPs) started by state medical societies and staffed by volunteer physicians they eliminated those not believing in the mentality of the groupthink.   They then mandated assessment and treatment of all doctors be done at a “PHP-approved” facility which means a facility identical to Ridgeview.  This was done  under the scaffold of the Federation of State Physician Health Programs (FSPHP).  They are now in charge of all things related to physician wellness in doctors.

  1. Durcanin C, King M. The suicides at Ridgeview Institute: Suicides mar success at Ridgeview with troubled professionals. Atlanta Journal and Constitution. December 18, 1987, 1987: A13.
  2. Gonzales L. When Doctors are Addicts: For physicians getting Drugs is easy. Getting help is not. Chicago Reader. July 28, 1988, 1988.
  3. King M, Durcanin C. The suicides at Ridgeview Institute: A Doctor’s treatment program may be too tough, some say. Atlanta Journal and Constitution. December 18, 1987a, 1987: A12.
  4. Bissell L, Royce JE. Ethics for Addiction Professionals. Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden; 1987.
  5. Addiction Scientists from the USA: LeClair Bissell. In: Edwards G, ed. Addiction: Evolution of a Specialist Field. 1 ed: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated; 2002:408.
  6. Durcanin C. The suicides at Ridgeview Institute: Staff members didn’t believe Michigan doctor was suicidal. Atlanta Journal and Constitution. December 18, 1987, 1987: A8.
  7. Ricks WS. Ridgeview Institute loses $1.3 million in suit over suicide. Atlanta Journal and Constitution. October 11, 1987, 1987: A1.
  8. King M, Durcanin C. The suicides at Ridgeview Institute: Many drug-using doctors driven to Ridgeview by fear of losing licenses. Atlanta Journal and Constitution. December 18, 1987b, 1987: A1.
  9. Bissell L, Haberman PW. Alcoholism in the Professions. Oxford University Press; 1984.
  10. White W. Reflections of an addiction treatment pioneer. An Interview with LeClair Bissell, MD (1928-2008), conducted January 22, 1997. Posted at http://www.williamwhitepapers.com. 2011.
  11. Williams c. Health care field chemical dependency threat cited. The Tuscaloosa News. January 16, 1988, 1988: 16.
  12. Schneidman B. The Philosophy of Rehabilitation for Impaired Physicians. The Federal Bulletin: The Journal of Medical Licensure and Discipline. 1995;82(3):125-127.
  13. Peele S. In the Belly of the American Society of Addiction Medicine Beast. The Stanton Peele Addiction Website (accessed March 28, 2014) http://web.archive.org/web/20080514153437/http://www.peele.net/debate/talbott.html.
  14. Ursery S. $1.3M verdict coaxes a deal for doctor’s coerced rehab. Fulton County Daily Report. May 12, 1999b 1999.
  15. Ursery S. I was wrongly held in alcohol center, doctor charges. Fulton Count y Daily Report. April 27, 1999a 1999.
  16. Parker J. George Talbott’s Abuse of Dr. Leon Masters MD ( http://medicalwhistleblowernetwork.jigsy.com/george-talbott-s-abuse-of-leon-masters ). Medical Whistelblower Advocacy Network.

Physician Health Programs: The Need for Transparency and Accountability

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Accountability, or answerability,  is necessary to prevent abuse and corruption.  This requires both the provision of information and justification for actions.  What was done and why?

Professional guidelines and standards of care, ethical codes of conduct and the law are all objective benchmarks that can be used to assess the actions and decisions of others.  In any free society this necessitates the existence of organizations of truly independent opinion capable of standing in this judgment.

State PHPs are Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) over which the state health department has no supervisory oversight.  There is no regulation, no transparency and no accountability.  There is no public scrutiny and they police themselves.

In Ethical and Managerial Considerations Regarding State Physician Health Programs Drs. John Knight and J. Wesley Boyd call for greater oversight and scrutiny of PHPs by the medical community at large.   They recommended periodic auditing, national standards and regulation.  They also attempted to convince the Massachusetts Medical Society to implement changes at PHS where they served as Associate Directors with over two decades of collective experience.

These efforts to promote transparency and accountability at both local and national levels, however,  fell on deaf ears.

State PHPs have systematically removed those not conforming to groupthink.  Threatening them with litigation if they breached “peer-review” statutes and confidentiality agreements has effectively silenced them from reporting any misconduct, abuse or even crimes they may have witnessed.

In Massachusetts John Knight was removed in 2009 and J. Wesley Boyd in 2010.  In Ethical and Managerial Considerations Regarding State Physician Health Programs  they comment “if a PHP highlights a physician as particularly problematic, the evaluation center might–whether consciously or otherwisetailor its diagnosis and recommendations in a way that will support the PHP’s impression of that physician.”  So too will the clinical laboratories.  

How is this any different from the case of Dr. Farid Fata, the Michigan oncologist who intentionally diagnosed healthy patients with cancer so he could charge them for unneeded chemotherapy?  The U.S. Attorney called it the “most egregious” case of health care fraud ever. His acts may have contributed to one patient death.   The institutional injustice of the PHP system is causing countless deaths of physicians.

To consciously “tailor” a diagnosis is fraud.  To tailor a diagnosis of substance use disorder or any other psychiatric diagnosis is the political abuse of psychiatry.  Misrepresentation, dishonesty, deception, and distortion play no role in the Profession and Guild of Medicine.  To do so violates the basic moral principles of Medical Ethics–Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-Maleficence and Justice.

The “PHP-approved” assessment and treatment centers are all staffed by doctors of “like-mind.”  It is a rigged game.

An audit of the North Carolina PHP found essentially no oversight from the Medical Board or Medical Society.  The audit found that “abuse could occur without being detected,” and this is by design.  By removing and blocking the provision of information necessary for accountability, restricting the liberties and freedoms of physicians, and increasing their power and control they have erected a framework of hidden abuse.

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The situation in North Carolina is standard operating procedure for PHPs under the Federation of State Physician Health Programs (FSPHP).  It is not the exception but the rule.

While outspoken in denouncing what they regard as unethical and unprofessional behavior by other doctors, they are resistant to apply even the most minimal standards to their own activities.

To whom are the PHPs accountable? Whom do they represent? These are legitimate concerns.


 

PHYSICIAN OR PROFESSIONAL HEALTH PROGRAM SURVEY

Professional Health Program (PHP) Survey

Please click on the link below and complete the following survey if you have been monitored or are being monitored by a PHP.

Professional Health Program (PHP) Survey

This is a confidential survey. If you have concerns about anonymity please create an alternative alias email address (this video shows you how to create an alias G-mail address), then use the alias email address as your “name” for future correlation.

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Hopelessness, Helplessness and Defeat: Organizational Justice and Physician Suicide

They can be a terror to your mind and show you how to hold your tongue
They got mystery written all over their forehead
They kill babies in the crib and say only the good die young
They don’t believe in mercy
Judgement on them is something that you’ll never see
They can exalt you up or bring you down main route
Turn you into anything that they want you to be–Bob Dylan, Foot of Pride


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Although no reliable statistics yet exist, anecdotal reports suggest a marked rise in physician suicide in recent years. From the reports I am receiving it is a lot more than the oft cited “medical school class” of 400 per year.

This necessitates an evaluation of predisposing risk factors such as substance abuse and depression, but also requires a critical examination of what external forces may be involved in the descent from suicidal ideation to suicidal planning to completed suicide.  What are the cumulative situational and psychosocial factors in physicians that make suicide a potential option and what acute events precipitate the final act?

Depression and Substance Abuse no Different from General Population

The prevalence of depression in physicians is close to that of the general population 1,2 and, if one looks critically at the evidence based literature, substance abuse in medical professionals approximates that of the general population.  Controlled studies using DSM diagnostic criteria indicate that physicians have the same rates (8-14%) of substance abuse and dependence as the general population,3 and slightly lower rates compared to other occupations.4,5 Epidemiological surveys reveal the same. Hughes, et al.6 reported a lifetime prevalence of drug or alcohol abuse or dependence in physicians of 7.9%, markedly less than the 14.6% prevalence reported in the general population by Kessler.7

Job Stress and Untreated Mental Illness Risk Factors

Job stress coupled with inadequate treatment for mental illness may be factors contributing to physician suicide according to one recent study. Using data from the National Violent Death Reporting System, Gold, Sen, & Schwenk, 2013 8 compared 203 physicians who had committed suicide to more than 31,000 non-physicians and found that having a known mental health disorder or a job problem that contributed to the suicide significantly predicted being a physician. Physicians were 3.12 times more likely to have a job problem as a contributing factor. In addition, toxicology testing showed low rates of medication treatment.  The authors concluded that inadequate treatment and increased problems related to job stress are potentially modifiable risk factors to reduce suicidal death among physicians. They also warned that the database used likely underestimated physician suicides because of “underreporting and even deliberate miscoding because of the stigma attached.”8

Few studies have evaluated the psychosocial stressors surrounding physician suicide but there is no reason to believe they are any different from the rest of the population. Although the triggering life events and specific stressors may vary outside, the inner psyche and undercurrent of thoughts and feelings should remains the same.   Perhaps the same drivers of suicide identified in other populations are contributing to physician suicide.

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Perceived Helplessness, Hopelessness, Bullying and Defeat

Perceived helplessness is significantly associated with suicide as is9 Hopelessness10,11 Bullying is known to be a predominant trigger for adolescent suicide12-14 One study found that adolescents in custody who were bullied were 9.22 times more likely to attempt suicide than those were not bullied.15

Heightened perceptions of defeat and entrapment are known to be powerful contributors to suicide.16,17 The “Cry of Pain” model 18,19 specifies that people are particularly prone to suicide when life experiences are interpreted as signaling defeat which is defined as a sense of “failed struggle” or loss of social position and resources.. The person is unable to identify an escape from or resolution to a defeating situation, a sense of entrapment proliferates with the perception of no way out, and this provides the central impetus for ending ones life. There is a helplessness and hopelessness that precipitates the descent from ideation, to planning, and then to finality.

Organizational Justice Important Protective Factor

In a study on Italian and Swedish female physicians, degrading experiences and harassment at work were found to be the most powerful independent variables contributing to suicidal thoughts.20 Degrading work experiences harassment, and lack of control over working conditions were found to be associated with suicidal thoughts among Italian and Swedish male university physicians.21

Evidence exists for the role of rescue factors (i.e. social support) as buffers against suicide in the face of varying degrees of life stress.22,23 The study of female physicians revealed meetings to discuss stressful work experiences as a potential protective factor, 20 and support at work when difficulties arose appeared to be a protective factor for the male physicians.21   In line with this, studies of Finnish physicians found that control over one’s work and organizational justice were the most important determinants of work-related wellbeing.24,25 Organizational justice has been identified as a psychosocial predictor of health and wellbeing26 27 Low organizational justice has been identified as a notable risk factor for psychological distress and depression.28,29

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Historical Precedent-the Suicides at Ridgeview

Could these factors be playing a role in physician suicide?   They evidently did at the Ridgeview Institute, a drug and alcohol treatment program for impaired physicians in Metropolitan Atlanta created by G. Douglas Talbott. Talbott helped organize and served as past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and was a formative figure in the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) Impaired Physician Program. He has owned and directed a number of treatment facilities for impaired professionals, most recently the Talbott Recovery Campus in Atlanta, one of the preferred referrals for physicians ordered into evaluation and treatment by licensing boards.

After creating the DeKalb County Impaired Physicians Committee for the Medical Association of Georgia, Talbott founded the Georgia Disabled Doctors Program in 1975 in part because “traditional one-month treatment programs are inadequate for disabled doctors.” According to Talbott, rehabilitation programs that evaluate and treat the rest of the population for substance abuse issues are incapable of doing so in doctors as they are unlike others. He bases this uniqueness on “incredibly high denial”, and what he calls the “four MDs,” “M-Deity”, “Massive Denial” “Militant Defensiveness”, and “More Drugs.”30

Contingency Management = Extortion Using Medical License

According to Talbott, “impaired doctors must first acknowledge their addiction and overcome their ‘terminal uniqueness’ before they can deal with a drug or alcohol problem.” “Terminal uniqueness “ is a phrase Talbott uses to describe doctors’ tendency to think they can heal themselves. “M-Deity” refers to doctors “being trained to think they’re God,”31 an unfounded generalization considering the vast diversity of individuals that make up our profession. This attitude, according to some critics, stems from the personal histories of the treatment staff, including Talbott, who are recovering alcoholics and addicts themselves. One such critic was Assistant Surgeon General under C. Everett Koop John C. Duffy who said that Ridgeview suffered from a “boot-camp mentality” toward physicians under their care and “assume every physician suffering from substance abuse is the same lying, stealing, cheating, manipulating individual they were when they had the illness. Certainly some physicians are manipulative, but it’s naïve to label all physicians with these problems.”32

American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) President (1981-1983) LeClair Bissell was also highly critical of Talbott’s approach. Bissell, co-author of the first textbook of ethics for addiction professionals33 when asked if there was any justification to the claim that doctors are sicker than other people and more vulnerable to addiction replied:

“Well, based on my treatment experience, I think they are less sick and much easier to treat than many other groups. I think one reason for that is that in order to become a physician…one has to have jumped over a great many hurdles. One must pass the exams, survive the screening tests and the interviews, be able to organize oneself well enough to do examinations and so on, and be observed by a good many colleagues along the way. Therefore I think the more grossly psychotic, or sicker, are frequently screened out along the way. The ones we get in treatment are usually people who are less brain-damaged, are still quite capable of learning, are reasonably bright. Not only that, but they are quite well motivated in most cases to hang on to their licenses, the threat of the loss of which is frequently what puts them in treatment in the first place. So are they hard to treat? No! Are they easy patients? Yes! Are they more likely to be addicted than other groups? We don’t know.”34

“I’m not much for the bullying that goes along with some of these programs,” Bissell commented to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution in 1987.31   The constitution did a series of reports after five inpatients committed suicide during a four-year period at Ridgeview.35 In addition there were at least 20 more who had killed themselves over the preceding 12 years after leaving the treatment center.32

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Bissell, the recipient of the 1997 Elizabeth Blackwell Award for outstanding contributions to the cause of women and medicine remarked: “When you’ve got them by the license, that’s pretty strong leverage. You shouldn’t have to pound on them so much. You could be asking for trouble.”31 According to Bissell: “There’s a lot of debate in the field over whether treatment imposed by threats is worthwhile…To a large degree a person has to seek the treatment on his own accord before it will work for him.”31

A jury awarded $1.3 million to the widow of one of the deceased physicians against Ridgeview,36 and other lawsuits initiated on behalf of suicides were settled out of court.35

The Constitution reported that doctors entered the program under threats of loss of licensure “even when they would prefer treatment that is cheaper and closer to home.” 37 The paper also noted that Ridgeview “enjoys unparalleled connections with many local and state medical societies that work with troubled doctors,” “licensing boards often seek recommendations from such groups in devising an approved treatment plan,” and those in charge are often “physicians who themselves have successfully completed Ridgeview’s program.”37

The cost of a 28-day program for nonprofessionals at Ridgeview in 1987 was $10,000 while the cost was “higher for those going through impaired-health professionals program,” which lasted months rather than 28 days.32

In 1997 William L. White interviewed Bissell whom he called “one of the pioneers in the treatment of impaired professionals.” The interview was not published until after hear death in 2008 per her request.   Noting her book Alcoholism in the Professions38 “remains one of the classics in the field”, White asked her when those in the field began to see physicians and other professionals as a special treatment population. She replied:

“When they started making money in alcoholism. As soon as insurance started covering treatment, suddenly you heard that residential treatment was necessary for almost everybody. And since alcoholic docs had tons of money compared to the rest of the public, they not only needed residential treatment, they needed residential treatment in a special treatment facility for many months as opposed to the shorter periods of time that other people needed.”39

Talbott claimed a “92.3 percent recovery rate, according to information compiled from a five-year follow-up survey based on complete abstinence and other treatment.”40

“There is nothing special about a doctor’s alcoholism,” said Bissel

“these special facilities will tell you that they come up with really wonderful recovery rates. They do. And the reason they do is that any time you can grab a professional person by the license and compel him or her into treatment and force them to cooperate with that treatment and then monitor them for years, you’ll get good outcomes—in the high 80s or low 90s in recovery rates—no matter what else you do.”39

“The ones I think are really the best ones were not specialized. There were other well-known specialty clinics that claimed all the docs they treated got well, which is sheer rot. They harmed a great many people, keeping them for long, unnecessary treatments and seeing to it that they hit their financial bottom for sure: kids being yanked out of college, being forced to sell homes to pay for treatment, and otherwise being blackmailed on the grounds that your husband has a fatal disease. It’s ugly.”39

Stanton Peele’s “In the Belly of the American Society of Addiction Medicine Beast” describes the coercion, bullying, threats and indoctrination that are standard operating procedure in Talbott’s facilities.41 Uncooperative patients, “and this covers a range of sins of commission or omission including offering one’s opinion about one’s treatment,” are “threatened with expulsion and with not being certified-or advocated for with their Boards.”41 The cornerstone of treatment is 12-step spiritual recovery. All new patients are indoctrinated into A.A. and coerced to confess they are addicts or alcoholics. Failure to participate in A.A. and 12-step spirituality means expulsion from the program with the anticipated result being loss of one’s medical license.

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From a talk given by FSPHP

Fraud, Malpractice, False Diagnoses and False imprisonment

In May 1999 Talbott stepped down as president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) as a jury awarded Dr. Leonard Masters a judgment of $1.3 million in actual damages and an undisclosed sum in punitive damages for fraud, malpractice, and the novel claim of false imprisonment.42 The fraud finding required a finding that errors in the diagnosis were intentional. After being accused of excessive prescribing of narcotics to his chronic pain patients, Masters was told by the director of the Florida PHP that he could either surrender his medical license until the allegations were disproved or submit to a four-day evaluation. Masters agreed to the latter, thinking he would have an objective and fair evaluation, but was instead diagnosed as “alcohol dependent” and coerced into the Talbott recovery program. He was forced to stay in the program under threat of his medical license as staff would routinely threaten to report any doctor who questioned any aspect of their diagnosis or treatment to their state medical boards “as being an impaired physician, leaving necessary treatment against medical advice”42  which would mean the loss of his licensure. However, Masters was not an alcoholic. According to his attorney, Eric. S. Block,  “No one ever accused him of having a problem with alcohol. Not his friends, not his wife, not his seven children, not his fellow doctors, not his employees, not his employers, No one.” 43  He was released 4 months later and forced to sign a five-year “continuing care” contract with the PHP, also under continued threat of his medical license. Talbott faced no professional repercussions and no changes in the treatment protocols were made. Talbott continued to present himself and ASAM as the most qualified advocate for the assessment and treatment of medical professionals for substance abuse and addiction up until his death last year.44

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Same System Imposed on Doctors Today—Institutional Injustice Worse due to Laboratory Developed Tests. Fortified Scaffold and Tightened the Noose.

In almost all states today any physician referred for an assessment for substance abuse will be mandated to do so in a facility just like Ridgeview. There is no choice. There is one difference however.   When the Ridgeview suicides occurred the plethora of laboratory developed tests were not yet introduced. A decade ago Dr. Gregory Skipper introduced the first laboratory developed test for forensic testing and used it on doctors in physician health programs.   These non-FDA approved tests of unknown validity presented a new unpredictable variable into the mix with a positive test necessitating another assessment at an out of state treatment facility—a “PHP-approved” assessment facility. The addition of this laboratory Russian Roulette renders the current system much worse than it was at the time of the Ridgeview suicides.

And if a positive test occurs there are no safeguards protecting the donor. LDTs are unregulated by the FDA. There is no oversight and no one to file a complaint with.

In addition the PHPs have no oversight by the medical boards, departments of health or medical societies. They police themselves. The PHPs have convinced law enforcement that when it comes to doctors it is a “parochial issue” best handled by the medical community. I have been hearing from doctors all over the country who have tried to report crimes to the local police, the state Attorney General and other law enforcement agencies only to be turned back over to the very perpetrators of the crimes. “He’s a sick doctor, we’ll take care of him.” The “swift and certain consequences” of this are an effective means of keeping the rest of the inmates silent.   Likewise doctors have been going to the media only to have the door slammed in their faces because the media has generally bought in to the “impaired” and “disruptive” physician construct these same people developed through propaganda, misinformation and moral panics and crusades.

tireddoctor

Urgent Need to Admit to the Problem

There has been an increase in physician suicide in the past decade.   By my estimate the numbers are going to be far higher than the oft-cited 400 per year. The speculation as to cause has been unenlightening and in fact frustrating.   Knowledge of anatomy, access to dangerous drugs, increased workload and even student loans have been proposed as contributing factors. Although there has been some tangential mention of physician health programs it has been indirect. Direct and defined discussion is necessary and state PHPs need to be named as a possible contributor to suicide.  Admitting the possibility there is a problem is the first crucial step in defining and addressing the problem.    The 1980s historical precedent is correlated with physician suicide.  The current system is not only based on Ridgeview but has been fortified in scope and power.  The physician health movement has effectively removed due process from doctors while removing answerability and accountability from themselves. And they have not only fortified the scaffold but widened it from substance abusing doctors to all doctors. “Potential impairment” and “relapse without use” were introduced without any meaningful resistance and they are now using a panoply of non-FDA approved laboratory developed tests of unknown validity to test for substances of abuse in a zero-tolerance abstinence based monitoring program.  With no regulatory oversight the stage is set not only for error but misuse as witch-pricking devices for punishment and control.  Doctors across the country are complaining of the very same abuses Leonard Masters did–false diagnoses, misdiagnosis, unneeded treatment and fraud.

In summary, any doctor who is referred to their state PHP today is required to have any assessment and treatment at a “PHP-approved” facility based on Ridgeview.  It is mandated.  There is no choice.  Coercion, control and abuse at Ridgeview was associated with multiple suicides in doctors in the 1980s.  The use of non-FDA approved tests of unknown validity worsens the abuse and fits the “cry of pain” model of hopelessness, helplessness and despair. Locus of control is  lost.  Organizational justice is absent.

The temporal relationship is clear.

Why is this still the elephant in the room?

This needs to be named, defined and openly discussed and debated.  How many more must die before we speak up?

Please help me get the conversation going.

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  1. Ford DE, Mead LA, Chang PP, Cooper-Patrick L, Wang NY, Klag MJ. Depression is a risk factor for coronary artery disease in men: the precursors study. Archives of internal medicine. Jul 13 1998;158(13):1422-1426.
  2. Frank E, Dingle AD. Self-reported depression and suicide attempts among U.S. women physicians. The American journal of psychiatry. Dec 1999;156(12):1887-1894.
  3. Brewster JM. Prevalence of alcohol and other drug problems among physicians. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association. Apr 11 1986;255(14):1913-1920.
  4. Anthony J, Eaton W, Mandell W, al. e. Psychoactive Drug Dependence and abuse: More Common in Some Occupations than in Others? Journal of Employee Assistance Res. 1992;1:148-186.
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  6. Hughes PH, Brandenburg N, Baldwin DC, Jr., et al. Prevalence of substance use among US physicians. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association. May 6 1992;267(17):2333-2339.
  7. Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Merikangas KR, Walters EE. Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of general psychiatry. Jun 2005;62(6):593-602.
  8. Gold KJ, Sen A, Schwenk TL. Details on suicide among US physicians: data from the National Violent Death Reporting System. General hospital psychiatry. Jan-Feb 2013;35(1):45-49.
  9. Rivers I, Noret N. Potential suicide ideation and its association with observing bullying at school. The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine. Jul 2013;53(1 Suppl):S32-36.
  10. Lester D, Walker RL. Hopelessness, helplessness, and haplessness as predictors of suicidal ideation. Omega. 2007;55(4):321-324.
  11. Beck AT. Hopelessness as a predictor of eventual suicide. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1986;487:90-96.
  12. Hinduja S, Patchin JW. Bullying, cyberbullying, and suicide. Archives of suicide research : official journal of the International Academy for Suicide Research. 2010;14(3):206-221.
  13. Hertz MF, Donato I, Wright J. Bullying and suicide: a public health approach. The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine. Jul 2013;53(1 Suppl):S1-3.
  14. Kim YS, Leventhal B. Bullying and suicide. A review. International journal of adolescent medicine and health. Apr-Jun 2008;20(2):133-154.
  15. Kiriakidis SP. Bullying and suicide attempts among adolescents kept in custody. Crisis. 2008;29(4):216-218.
  16. Taylor PJ, Gooding P, Wood AM, Tarrier N. The role of defeat and entrapment in depression, anxiety, and suicide. Psychological bulletin. May 2011;137(3):391-420.
  17. Lester D. Defeat and entrapment as predictors of depression and suicidal ideation versus hopelessness and helplessness. Psychological reports. Oct 2012;111(2):498-501.
  18. Williams JMG. Cry of Pain. Harmondsworth: Penguin; 1997.
  19. Williams JMG, Crane C, Barnhofer T, Duggan DS. Psychology and suicidal behavior: elaborating the entrapment model. In: Hawton K, ed. Prevention and treatment of suicidal behavior: from science to practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2005:71-89.
  20. Fridner A, Belkic K, Marini M, Minucci D, Pavan L, Schenck-Gustafsson K. Survey on recent suicidal ideation among female university hospital physicians in Sweden and Italy (the HOUPE study): cross-sectional associations with work stressors. Gender medicine. Apr 2009;6(1):314-328.
  21. Fridner A, Belkic K, Minucci D, et al. Work environment and recent suicidal thoughts among male university hospital physicians in Sweden and Italy: the health and organization among university hospital physicians in Europe (HOUPE) study. Gender medicine. Aug 2011;8(4):269-279.
  22. Borowsky IW, Ireland M, Resnick MD. Adolescent suicide attempts: Risks and protectors. Pediatrics. 2001;107(485).
  23. Clum GA, Febbraro GAR. Stress, social support and problem-solving appraisal/skill: Prediction of suicide severity within a college sample. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment. 1994;16:37-46.
  24. Lindfors PM, Meretoja OA, Toyry SM, Luukkonen RA, Elovainio MJ, Leino TJ. Job satisfaction, work ability and life satisfaction among Finnish anaesthesiologists. Acta anaesthesiologica Scandinavica. Aug 2007;51(7):815-822.
  25. Heponiemi T, Kuusio H, Sinervo T, Elovainio M. Job attitudes and well-being among public vs. private physicians: organizational justice and job control as mediators. European journal of public health. Aug 2011;21(4):520-525.
  26. Elovainio M, Kivimaki M, Vahtera J. Organizational justice: evidence of a new psychosocial predictor of health. Am J Public Health. Jan 2002;92(1):105-108.
  27. Lawson KJ, Noblet AJ, Rodwell JJ. Promoting employee wellbeing: the relevance of work characteristics and organizational justice. Health promotion international. Sep 2009;24(3):223-233.
  28. Hayashi T, Odagiri Y, Ohya Y, Tanaka K, Shimomitsu T. Organizational justice, willingness to work, and psychological distress: results from a private Japanese company. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine / American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Feb 2011;53(2):174-181.
  29. Lang J, Bliese PD, Lang JW, Adler AB. Work gets unfair for the depressed: cross-lagged relations between organizational justice perceptions and depressive symptoms. The Journal of applied psychology. May 2011;96(3):602-618.
  30. Gonzales L. When Doctors are Addicts: For physicians getting Molly Kellogg is easy. Getting help is not. Chicago Reader. July 28, 1988, 1988.
  31. King M, Durcanin C. The suicides at Ridgeview Institute: A Doctor’s treatment program may be too tough, some say. Atlanta Journal and Constitution. December 18, 1987a, 1987: A12.
  32. Durcanin C, King M. The suicides at Ridgeview Institute: Suicides mar success at Ridgeview with troubled professionals. Atlanta Journal and Constitution. December 18, 1987, 1987: A13.
  33. Bissell L, Royce JE. Ethics for Addiction Professionals. Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden; 1987.
  34. Addiction Scientists from the USA: LeClair Bissell. In: Edwards G, ed. Addiction: Evolution of a Specialist Field. 1 ed: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated; 2002:408.
  35. Durcanin C. The suicides at Ridgeview Institute: Staff members didn’t believe Michigan doctor was suicidal. Atlanta Journal and Constitution. December 18, 1987, 1987: A8.
  36. Ricks WS. Ridgeview Institute loses $1.3 million in suit over suicide. Atlanta Journal and Constitution. October 11, 1987, 1987: A1.
  37. King M, Durcanin C. The suicides at Ridgeview Institute: Many drug-using doctors driven to Ridgeview by fear of losing licenses. Atlanta Journal and Constitution. December 18, 1987b, 1987: A1.
  38. Bissell L, Haberman PW. Alcoholism in the Professions. Oxford University Press; 1984.
  39. White W. Reflections of an addiction treatment pioneer. An Interview with LeClair Bissell, MD (1928-2008), conducted January 22, 1997. Posted at http://www.williamwhitepapers.com. 2011.
  40. Williams c. Health care field chemical dependency threat cited. The Tuscaloosa News. January 16, 1988, 1988: 16.
  41. Peele S. In the Belly of the American Society of Addiction Medicine Beast. The Stanton Peele Addiction Website (accessed March 28, 2014) http://web.archive.org/web/20080514153437/http://www.peele.net/debate/talbott.html.
  42. Ursery S. $1.3M verdict coaxes a deal for doctor’s coerced rehab. Fulton County Daily Report. May 12, 1999b 1999.
  43. Ursery S. I was wrongly held in alcohol center, doctor charges. Fulton Count y Daily Report. April 27, 1999a 1999.
  44. Parker J. George Talbott’s Abuse of Dr. Leon Masters MD ( http://medicalwhistleblowernetwork.jigsy.com/george-talbott-s-abuse-of-leon-masters ). Medical Whistelblower Advocacy Network.
  45. images-10

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The “Impaired Physician Movement” Takeover of State Physician Health Programs (PHPs)

Forget what you see
Some things they just change invisibly–Elliott Smith

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Physician Impairment

The Sick Physician: Impairment by Psychiatric Disorders, Including Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, published by the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Council on Mental Health in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 1973,1 recommended that physicians do a better job of helping colleagues impaired by mental illness, alcoholism or drug dependence. The AMA defined an “impaired physician” as “a physician who is unable to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety to patients because of mental illness or excessive use or abuse of drugs, including alcohol.”

Recognition of physician impairment in the 1970s by both the medical community and the general public led to the development of “impaired physician” programs with the purpose of both helping impaired doctors and protecting the public from them.

IMG_1010The 1975 media coverage of the deaths of Drs. Stewart and Cyril Marcus brought the problem of impaired physicians into the public eye. IMG_0940Leading experts in the field of Infertility Medicine, the twin gynecologists were found dead in their Upper East Side apartment from drug withdrawal that New York Hospital was aware of but did nothing about. Performing surgery with trembling hands and barely able to stand, an investigation revealed that nothing had been done to help the Marcus brothers with their addiction or protect patients. They were 45 –years old.

Top: Twin Gynecologists Stewart and Cyril Marcus Bottom: The Movie

Although the New York State Medical Society had set up its own voluntary program for impaired physicians three years earlier, the Marcus case prompted the state legislature to pass a law that doctors had to report any colleague suspected of misconduct to the state medical board and those who didn’t would face misconduct charges themselves.


Physician Health Programs

Physician health programs (PHPs)  existed in almost every state by 1980. Often staffed by volunteer physicians and funded by State Medical Societies, these programs served the dual purpose of helping sick colleagues and protecting the public. Preferring rehabilitation to probation or license revocation so long as the public was protected from imminent danger, most medical boards accepted the concept with support and referral.

As an alternative to discipline the introduction of PHPs created a perception of medical boards as “enforcers” whose job was to sanction and discipline whereas PHPs were perceived as “rehabilitators” whose job was to help sick physicians recover. One of many false dichotomies this group uses and it is perhaps this perceived benevolence that created an absence of the need to guard.


Employee Assistance Programs for Doctors

Physician Health Programs (PHPs) are the equivalent of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) for other occupations. PHPs meet with, assess, and monitor doctors who have been referred to them for substance use or other mental or behavioral health problems.

Most EAPs, however, were developed with the collaboration of workers unions or some other group supporting the rights and best interests of the employees. PHPs were created and evolved without any oversight or regulation.

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The American Society of Addiction Medicine can trace its roots to the 1954 founding of theNew York City Medical Society on Alcoholism (NYCMSA) by Ruth Fox, M.D whose husband died from alcoholism.

The society, numbering about 100 members, established itself as a national organization in1967, the American Medical Society on Alcoholism (AMSA).

By 1970 membership was nearly 500.

In 1973 AMSA became a component of the National Council on Alcoholism (NCA) in a medical advisory capacity until 1983.

But by the mid 1980’s ASAM’s membership became so large that they no longer needed to remain under the NCADD umbrella.

In 1985 ASAM’s first certification exam was announced. According to Dr. Bean-Bayog, chair of the Credentialing Committee, “a lot of people in the alcoholism field have long wanted physicians in the field to have a high level of skills and scientific credibility and for this body of knowledge to be accredited.”2 And in 1986 662 physicians took the first ASAM Certification Exam.

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By 1988 membership was over 2,800 with 1,275 of these physicians “certified” as “having demonstrated knowledge and expertise in alcoholism and other drug dependencies commensurate with the standards set forth by the society.”3 “The formation of State Chapters began with California, Florida, Georgia, and Maryland submitting requests.4

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In 1988 the AMA House of Delegates voted to admit ASAM to the House. According to ASAM News this “legitimizes the society within the halls of organized medicine.”2

By 1993 ASAM had a membership of 3,500 with a total of 2,619IMG_8919certifications in Addiction Medicine. The Membership Campaign Task Force sets a goal to double its membership of 3,500 to 7,000 by the year 2000 to assure “the future of treatment for patients with chemicals. It represents a blueprint for establishing addiction medicine as a viable entity.”5

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Many of these physicians joined state PHPs and over time have taken over under the umbrella of the FSPHP.

Others became medical directors of treatment centers such as Hazelden, Marworth and Talbott.


  1. The sick physician. Impairment by psychiatric disorders, including alcoholism and drug dependence. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association. Feb 5 1973;223(6):684-687.
  2. Four Decades of ASAM. ASAM News. March-April 1994, 1994.
  3. . American Medical Society on Alcoholism & Other Drug Dependencies Newsletter. Vol III. New York, NY: AMSAODD; 1988:12.
  4. . AMSAODD News. Vol III. New York, NY: American Medical Society on Alcoholism & Other Drug Dependencies; 1988.
  5. Membership Campaign Update. ASAM News. Vol VIII: American Society of Addiction Medicine; 1993:11.

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johnnyLawrence

Physician Health Programs (PHPs) are not above the law; They just think they are

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Physician Health Programs are not Above the Law

Are Physician Health Programs (PHPs) above the law?  

 Unable to get law enforcement to take cognizance of reported abuse, many doctors I have spoken with believe that the actors involved are impervious to criminal liability.  Complaints of fabrication and fraud involving PHPs and their affiliates to the police, the Attorney General and other law enforcement agencies have been given no credence,  tabled or dismissed with little investigation.

Believing these agencies are deliberately ignoring credible complaints and the documentary evidence placed before them, some have concluded that state PHPs have been given the power to commit crimes with impunity and immunity.

PHPs are not above the law.  It is by removing themselves from and blocking the usual routes of accountability and absolute operational control of the testing, assessment and treatment process that has enabled misconduct to remain hidden, unrecognized or excused. The crimes exist but they remain undetected, unnoticed and unpunished.

Removing Accountability

The essence of accountability is answerability which means having the obligation to answer questions regarding decisions and actions.   This requires the transmission of information when it is requested.  The accountable actor provides the information to the overseeing actors in a transparent manner.

Accountability also requires explanation and justification for the information provided. What was done and why? Standards, rules, regulations, codes, laws and other benchmarks are then applied by the overseeing actor to determine if the information provided was appropriate or inappropriate.

The availability and application of sanctions for illegal or inappropriate actions uncovered through answerability is also a necessary component of accountability. This is necessary to impose restraint on authority and power.  Lack of enforcement of sanctions contribute to the creation of a culture of impunity.

The usual mechanisms that exist to impose restraint and create incentives for appropriate behavior and actions are absent. No outside oversight exists to limit their power or subject them to a set of rules.  No regulation exists to curb abuse.

A Culture of Impunity

The authority accorded PHPs and the power they exercise exist in a culture of impunity.

The key findings of the2014  North Carolina PHP Audit are below:.

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No indications of abuse were found,  a point brandished by the PHP as redeeming  and proving no abuse was occurring. In actual fact it is an ominous finding that also relates to their apparent ability to violate the law. 

The audit found no indications of abuse but that abuse could occur and not be detected because of an absence of due process for the complainant, excessive control of the complaint process by the PHP and absence of oversight by either the medical board or medical society.  What this means is that a doctor with no power is making a complaint against an unsupervised agency with enough power to influence the investigation of a complaint against itself.  The reason no indications of abuse were found is because the system is specifically designed to hide abuse.  That is the intent.

Absence of transparency, regulation and oversight coupled with control of information enables both censorship and doctoring of records.   Strict Confidentiality is enforced by HIPAA, peer review protection, and drug and alcohol confidentiality law.  

Quest Diagnostics

PHPs are able to suppress and conceal criminal activity but they are also able to  manufacture information designed to hide misconduct.  

The North Carolina Audit found no objective selection criteria for the out of state assessment and treatment centers because none exist other than ideological mindset and monetary gain.  The same facilities are used by most state PHPS.  They are, in fact, mandated as they are the “PHP-preferred” facilities.  

In 2011 The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) issued a public policy statement on coordination between PHPs, regulatory agencies, and treatment providers. recommending only “PHP-approved” treatment centers be used and the statement specifically excludes ‘non-PHP” recognized facilities.  

What the Audit diid not discover is the medical directors of all of the “PHP-approved” facilities can all be seen on this list of Like-Minded Docs.  It is a rigged game    Every aspect of drug-testing, assessment and treatment is kept hidden and secret and within control of the PHP.

It is a rigged game in which they have removed themselves from all aspects of accountability.  They have, in effect, manufactured a culture of impunity at our expense.

 “PHP-Approved Attorneys”

My survey has revealed an additional factor stacking the deck and removing accountability from PHPs.  The attorneys ostensibly representing doctors are also part of the racket.

A doctor referred to a PHP will be given a list of 3 or 4 attorneys by the PHP who are “experienced in working with the medical board.” What they do not tell you is that theses attorneys are hand-picked or cultivated to abide by the rules dictated by the PHP.

They will not “bite the hand that feeds” and any procedural, ethical or criminal misconduct by the PHP will not be addressed.     Laboratory fraud, false diagnoses, and Establishment Clause violations are off limits.

The primary purpose of these attorneys is to enforce payment for laboratory fees and demand compliance with whatever the PHP demands.  Their primary purpose is to keep doctors powerless under the PHP and prevent misconduct, including crimes, from being discovered.

The attorney pool is currently over-served by those serving two clients and most of those outside simply do not know enough about the “physician health”  legal issues related to doctors.  When they appear before the board it is as if they are a deer in the headlights.  It is a new terrain where all due process and familiar protocol have been removed.  Of course this was all facilitated by changes in administrative and medical practice acts orchestrated by the physician health movement “in the interests of protecting the public.  This must be recognized and addressed.

Skilled negotiators and lawyers with administrative law experience would do well to consider representation for doctors before medical boards regarding “physician health” matters.

It is not that esoteric, complicated or difficult.   As with the rest of the population, most have just not critically analyzed the issues behind the curtain.

Crooked Board Attorneys

Perhaps the lowest bottom feeders  playing a role in this culture of impunity are those whose job is to ostensibly ensure that due process and fundamental fairness are followed.    It is becoming quite clear that some of the state employed attorneys within medical boards control the flow of information by picking and choosing what is before the board for consideration.    Many of these attorneys go on to represent doctors in cases before the board.   If these attorneys acted as zealous advocates on behalf of their clients they would never get a referral again and because of this the system is plugged with an attorney pool unwilling to win but simply compromise.

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The “Impaired Physician”–Increasing the Grand Scale of the Hunt

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“Wretched creatures are compelled by the severity of the torture to confess things they have never done and so by cruel butchery innocent lives are taken; and by new alchemy, gold and silver are coined from human blood.”  Father Cornelius Loos  ( 1592 )

 

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How Impaired Physicians Can be Helped–Medscape Business of Medicine Article Published February 24, 2015. Click on image to access

How can impaired Physicians be helped?

1.   Impairment among physicians is growing:  Why?  

Answer:  It is not.   State Physician Health Programs (PHPs) are “diagnosing” impairment when there is no impairment.  They are pathologizing the normal and expanding in scope to increase the grand scale of the hunt.

2.  What’s the Prognosis for Impaired Physicians?

Answer:  Not Good.   Those who need help (the truly impaired)  are afraid to get help for fear of being monitored by their state PHP while many of those ensnared by PHPs are not impaired.   There is absolutely no oversight, regulation or accountability.  This needs to be evaluated in the context of physician suicide.    The system is one of institutional injustice and abuse of power. 

3.  Is your knowledge of physician impairment up-to-date?  

Answer:   No.  This will only occur after an evidence-based Cochrane type review separates information from misinformation; An objective non-biased investigation by outside actors identifying any conflicts-of-interest, misconduct or lack of evidence-base in the current system and separating the art and science of the medical profession from the politicalization and exploitation of the medical profession.

The list of doctors on Like-Minded Docs  solves the final piece of a  puzzle. It explains why so many doctors across the country are claiming fabrication and manipulation of personality and cognitive tests to support nonexistent diagnoses at these “PHP-approved” assessment centers.    The relationship between the state PHP’s and the “PHP-approved” assessment centers is the same as it is between the state PHPs and the corrupt labs.

As Drs. John Knight and J. Wesley Boyd note in Ethical and Managerial Considerations Regarding State Physician Health Programs, published in the Journal of the American Society of Addiction Medicine,  this is what is known as “tailoring a diagnosis”–a euphemism for the political abuse of psychiatry.  According to the Global Initiative on Psychiatry “Political abuse of psychiatry refers to the misuse of psychiatric diagnosis, treatment and detention for the purposes of obstructing the fundamental human rights of certain individuals and groups in a given society.”   The shoe fits here.  In fact it fits very well.

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The Global Initiative on Psychiatry opposes the Political_Abuse_of_Psychiatry  wherever  it may occur and “supports those psychiatrists and psychiatric organizations that pressure the offending states to discontinue the practice and lobby vigorously those organizations which are wavering. The main way for individuals and organizations to work is through diplomatic channels. It is necessary to expose the practice and to embarrass countries that are at fault by expelling them from organizations such as the World Psychiatric Association. This can only be ensured by properly organized open investigation of psychiatric practice and interviews with the alleged victims”

Political abuse of psychiatry in the profession of medicine needs to be treated in the same way.

An evidence based Cochrane type assessment of their “research” and an Institute of Medicine Conflict of Interest review are long overdue.

In evaluating a physician for “impairment” or being “disruptive” the Physician Health Programs (PHPs)  under the Federation of State Physician Health Programs (FSPHP)  are not gathering data to form a hypothesis.  They are making data fit a hypothesis that arrived at the out-of-state “PHP-approved” assessment center well before the alleged miscreant doctor.

With guilt assumed from the start, no due process, no appeal, and no way out physicians are being bullied, demoralized, and dehumanized  to the point of hopelessness, helplessness and despair.

This needs to end now.

Medicine is predicated on competence, good-faith, and integrity. 

Medical ethics necessitates beneficence, respect, and autonomy. 

The scaffold erected here is designed for coercion and control. 

Exposure, transparency, and accountability are urgent. 

The emperor has no clothes.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

https://artbylisabelle.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/three-shells-and-a-pea-asam-fsphp-and-lmd/

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Snakes in Smocks: Unrecognized Corporate Psychopathy in the Medical Profession


Psychopathy

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Psychopathy is present in all professions. In The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, Kevin Dutton provides a side-by-side list of professions with the highest (CEO tops the list) and lowest (care-aid) percentage of psychopaths.   Interestingly surgeons come in at #5 among the professions with the highest percentage of psychopathy while doctors  (in general) are listed among the lowest.

Although by no means a scientific study, Psycopaths, by their very nature, seek power and it would make sense that a psychopath among us might pick surgery over pediatrics or pathology as they are drawn to power, prestige, and control. Be this as it may the incidence of psycopathy or psychopathic traits in doctors of any specialty is low. Statistics indicate that no more than 1% of men in general exhibit psychopathic traits. In Women these characteristics are far less.

Due to irresponsible behavior and a tendency to ignore or violate social conventions and rules,  psychopaths frequently find themselves engaged in conduct involving the criminal justice system or involved in other disciplinary action. Juvenile delinquency, arrests, school suspensions and misconduct related issues are barriers that preclude professional careers for many and, with around 15% of the prison population estimated to be psychopathic, incarceration and recidivism are common final pathways. Because of this tendency it would be highly unlikely for most sociopaths to follow a standard professional career pathway involving academic rigor and normal professional and societal expectations,  because impulsive irresponsible actions commonly blocks it. This would predict a probably much lower prevalence of psycopathy in physicians compared to the general population.

That being said, such self imposed removal from a potential  career is the sole product of getting caught for misconduct and being held accountable for it.   Psychopaths possess several traits that make this difficult.    With a talent for “reading people” and identifying their weak spots and vulnerabilities they are able to get people to see what they want them to see.  Psychopaths often exude charm, confidence and charisma.  They can lie effortlessly and are very convincing..

The natural history of psychopathy involves risky behavior and the ability to get away with it or out of it. The consequences of this depend on if and when it occurs. It is entirely conceivable that some may live their entire lives undetected. With a need for stimulation and a proneness to boredom the psychopath is particularly prone to drug abuse and addiction and twice as likely as the general population to be diagnosed.

 Psycopathy involves a path of risky behavior as well as the potential for being held accountable for it. At any age the behavior that brings they psychopath to the attention of the criminal justice system is often drug or alcohol related. The natural history of the average psychopath reveals an overrepresentation in prison with a 15x greater risk in general. Any statistics on psycopathy in a population is based on psychometric evaluations retrospectively in specific populations. Being arrested or getting caught for something does not reveal the pathology or the correlation. You have to look for it.

And nothing is known of subpopulations of psychopaths and the impact of intelligence, education, profession and other factors and how they relate to outcomes and consequences over time. Egocentricity and a sense of entitlement drives they do not adapt to the environment but try to make the environment adapt to them. Without empathy and lacking remorse the goal is always self-serving and a question of what they can get out of it.

 Many judges, as an alternative to incarceration, have been requiring people arrested for drug and alcohol related offenses to attend AA meetings and provide proof of participation. As misguided as this is on other levels it is also dangerous. Given a choice between incarceration and attending AA the majority of any population, including those with psychopathic traits, would choose the latter. And as in any situation they would use it to see what they could get out of it. Masters of manipulation and impression management in a room full of potential victims. The reports of rape and theft coming out is no surprise. It is in all likelihood much worse.

And in reality psychopaths exist in every profession, including medicine.

What is the natural history and final common pathway of M.D. psychopaths?  Where do these shape-shifters end up?

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In his book Without Conscience, Dr. Robert Hare notes “If we can’t spot them, we are doomed to be their victims, both as individuals and as a society. ” Dr. Clive Boddy in Corporate Psychopaths observes that unethical leaders create unethical followers, which in turn create unethical companies and society suffers as a result.” And if you look at the FSPHP branch of the ASAM that is exactly what you will find.  less than 1/% of the population are psychopaths but they represent more that 10% of those in prisons.  What is the natural history of the physician psychopath? You do the math.

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A 2010 study, Corporate Psychopathy: Talking the Walk, found that 3 to 6 percent of corporate employees may be responsible for the majority of ethical breaches in corporations, with corporate psychopathy tending to be concentrated at the higher levels of organizations.

This group here, Like-minded Docs,  is largely responsible for what happens to any doctor referred to a state PHP because all of the medical directors of  the “PHP-approved” assessment and treatment centers can be found right here.

So too can Bob Dupont and Greg Skipper who have introduced the non-FDA approved drug and alcohol LDTs.  Stuart Gitlow, President of ASAM is also on the list.

This group is essentially in control of doctors and determines their fates and the percentage of psychopathy here is much much more than the  3-6% found at Enron.

Some of these doctors have done horrible things that most doctors would never do under any circumstances (steal IV pain relieving drugs from dying cancer patients I.V. bags, selling the ‘date-rape” drug to DEA agents).

On this list are multiple felons and a fair number of double felons who got their licenses back by saying they were not responsible for what they did.  They were helpless over drugs or alcohol and have now been saved by the good graces of 12-step spirituality.

And with that the medical boards gave them power without accountability.  There is no regulation, oversight, answerability or need to justify their actions.  It is a free for all and this list is a gold-mine for anyone studying organized psychopathy.

Physician Health Programs are a funnel for the sociopath and without restraint they are only growing.

This is what John Nash described would happen without counter-forces to keep their numbers low.

http://psychopathyinfo.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/characteristics-of-corporate-psychopaths-and-their-corporations/

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Medical Regulation and Junk-Science: The “Medical Sanctification” of Lie-Detectors byMedical Boards and State Physician Health Programs

Junk-Science in the Medical Profession: The Resurgence of Polygraph “Lie-Detection” in an age of Evidence-Based Medicine.

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Circa 1995

The article below was published in the now defunct magazine Gray Areas almost twenty years ago. (Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1995 pp. 75-77).  It is not a research article but a critique of the use of polygraphy written for a general audience.

Antipolygraph.org founder George Maschke noted in 2008 that the article “makes a good introduction to the pseudoscience of polygraphy” and “the criticisms of polygraphy remain valid today.”  The basic assumption of any good test is that is has construct validity; that it is actually measuring what it is purported to measure.   Polygraphy is purported to detect lies but the specificity and sensitivity are about the same as a toss of a coin and has the potential to cause a great deal of harm to those who are judged dishonest by its results.  Heads I win, tails you lose.

In the article I suggest that state laws regarding polygraph use must change and call upon the medical and scientific communities to educate lawmakers and policy makers about the absence of construct validity in this pseudoscientific instrument and “put the greater than 3000 anachronistic polygraph examiners in the United States out of business.” The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 (EPPA) generally prevents employers from using polygraphs for pre-employment screening or during the course of employment,  A 2003 report by the  National Academy of Sciences found that the majority of polygraph research was “unreliable, unscientific and biased.” In 2004 the American Psychological Association (APA) issued a position paper finding little evidence to support polygraphy in detecting deception concurring with the 1986 American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) Council on Scientific Affairs conclusions that there is little evidence base for this test and it is unscientifically supportable.

Alas, in  2016 the polygraph examiners are still in business and there are now approximately 5000 of them.  The American Polygraph Association is still claiming 90% accuracy and the test is used extensively by prosecutors, defense attorneys, and law enforcement agencies.  In U.S. courts judges have expanded the instances in which polygraph testing is mandated or admitted as evidence.

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 (EPPA) applies only to private industry, not the government and, ironically, state medical boards and their national organization,, the Federation of State Medical Boards condone their use on medical doctors despite the fact that the American Medical Association likened their accuracy to a coin-toss and recommended against their use in the 1980s.   This is due to the influence of the Federation of State Physician Health Programs (FSPHP).  The alliance between the FSMB and FSPHP has resulted in bad policy and decision making as physician health programs have bamboozled medical boards into complete deference to their perceived authority and expertise in evaluating physicians for just about anything. This has resulted in the acceptance of non-FDA approved drug and alcohol testing, non-validated psychological instruments and lie-detectors.   Polygraphs serve an important purpose for those involved in the PHP and rehab racket.   They are used in disruptive physician evaluations to “confirm” (i.e. “tailor”) diagnoses in physicians referred to gulags such as Acumen, the Professional Renewal Center and Vanderbilt.  Polygraphs and adherence to 12-step doctrine is also being used as leverage to regain medical licenses and apparently the medical boards agree with this methodology.

Take for instance, Dr. James Peak, M.D., a child psychiatrist who was sent to prison on a federal child pornography conviction and taken under the wing of the Montana PHP.  Michael J. Ramirez, clinical coordinator for the Montana Professional Assistance Program, says “Peak’s remorse for his crimes is genuine.”  Peak, who primarily saw adolescent boys in his practice  maintains he only looked at child pornography of young boys but never physically abused any and a polygraph confirmed that he was only a “looker”  but never a “toucher.” He spent just 10 months in Federal prison for a crime that could get up to ten years and thanks to the PHP his  license was reinstated lickety-split.

Peak’s treatment includes going to one AA meeting and one 12-step sex addict meeting per week.

Legitimate policy must be based on recognized institutions and experts.  The science must be reliable and unbiased. Regulatory changes demand methodologically sound science and evidence-based facts arrived at through rigorous peer review and professional.  Decision are currently being made by illegitimate carney hucksters and irrational clowns.

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The Art of Deception: Polygraph Lie Detection

By Michael Lawrence Langan, M.D.

I’d swear to it on my very soul, If I lie, may I fall down cold.”

– Rubin and Cherise
(Hunter/Garcia)

The accuracy of polygraphic lie detection is slightly above chance. Nevertheless, State and local police departments and law enforcement agencies across the United States are devoted proponents of this unscientific and specious device. In addition, the American public seems to lend an implicit credence to the “lie detector” as evinced by its ubiquitous use on television crime shows and in “whodunit” literature. It is given overt attributions of credibility on tabloid type talk shows and news shows. For example, in the highly publicized case of Tonya Harding a reporter stated, not with removed objectivity but with sardonic grin and mocking emphasis, that the accused had failed two polygraph tests. The implied assumption is that if the person has failed the polygraph test, then therefore he or she is guilty regardless of other evidence. Bottom line. Culpa ex machina. End of story.

Lie detection by the polygraph is based on the premise that the act of telling a lie causes specific, universal, and reproducible physiological responses as manifested by the autonomic nervous system. (Saxe, 1991) These physiological responses, which are largely outside the influence of voluntary control, are then measured by the polygraph instrument. The polygraph itself is simplistic in design. It consists of several devices which are attached to the subject to record blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and galvanic skin response (which is related to perspiration). The results are then recorded on a moving paper by a “kymograph.” Hence any change of one of the autonomic nervous system variables will be recorded on the paper as a change from baseline. The polygraph examiner then interprets the tracing. A characteristic change from baseline on a relevant question is interpreted as a lie.

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In fact, the polygraph test does measure autonomic nervous system activity. The role of the autonomic nervous system with its sympathetic and parasympathetic branches is well defined within the field of medicine, and was well described by the French physician Claude Bernard over a century ago. The primary role of the autonomic nervous system is to maintain bodily homeostasis to allow the individual to exist in a changing environment.

Simplistically described, the autonomic nervous system is a part of the peripheral nervous system which consists of a variety of outgoing nerve pathways that regulate important physiological functions generally outside of voluntary and conscious control. Thus, respiration, body temperature, heart rate, digestion, sweating, and blood pressure are all, partly or entirely, regulated by the autonomic nervous system. It is divided into sympathetic and parasympathetic branches which have contrasting functions in terms of effect. The sympathetic branch increases heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and perspiration. It is active at all times but varies with the constantly changing environment, and is especially active during rage or fright and prepares the body for the so called “fight or flight” phenomenon. Many of these reactions are caused by the release of epinephrine. The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is primarily involved with conservation and restoration. It is the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system that the polygraph measures in terms of its activity. Thus, from a medical perspective it is entirely valid that the polygraph will accurately measure sympathetic nervous system activity with its instrumentation.

The false assumption of the polygraph test is that dishonesty is the sole cause of sympathetic arousal during a polygraph examination. Deception is a cognitive phenomenon that cannot be measured. Indeed, throughout the entire history of medicine there has not been a single scientific study that demonstrated evidence that a cognitive phenomenon (such as love, hatred, truth, altruism, jealousy) could be measured. Since, in the complex realm of truth and deception, there is no known physiological response that correlates with lying, then there is no validity to the test. Although the act of lying can elicit fear and anxiety via the sympathetic nervous system, so can multiple other confounding and complex emotional factors including stress, embarrassment, anger, and fear. “Deception itself cannot be measured directly.” (Steinbrook, 1992) In addition, each individual differs in autonomic lability. Some people stay calm with a gun at their head. While others get autonomically excited, with heart thumping and palms sweating at simply shaking someone’s hand.

In reality, the examination itself is inherently designed to elicit fear and anxiety. It is an interrogation. If this fear and anxiety are recorded on a relevant question, then you have failed that question according to the polygraph “experts.”

The polygraph technique begins with a pre-test. After a sixth-grade level lecture on the nervous system and a proclamation of the test’s infallibility, the examiner will go over all of the questions that have been formulated.

These questions consist of control questions, relevant questions, and irrelevant questions. The subject will then be attached to the polygraph equipment and the formal testing begins.

The most crucial questions on the polygraph examination, or “Control Question Test,” are the control questions and relevant questions. The control questions are garnered from the suspect by asking him an innocuous question which could not be truthfully denied. For example, “Have you ever thought of hurting someone?” or “Have you ever lied to anyone?” The responses to the control questions will elicit some degree of autonomic activity which can then serve as a baseline for which to compare subsequent questions. The relevant questions pertain to the actual investigation at hand. The magnitude of responses to relevant questions and control questions as compared with the irrelevant questions is then interpreted, in a non-blinded manner, by the examiner. The assumption is, that if you are prevaricating, the relevant questions will cause a greater response than the control questions. So if the question “Have you ever been late for an appointment?” (control question) elicits less of an emotive response on the polygraph equipment than “Did you murder and rape your girlfriend?” (relevant question) you have failed the test. And, according to the American Polygraph Association (APA) you are lying. Assuming the subject is innocent, it is fairly obvious that he would respond with more emotional autonomic activity to a question regarding a recently deceased loved one than he would an inquiry about punctuality. Obvious to everyone, that is, but the APA.

The APA is a professional organization for polygraph examiners who have complete faith in the accuracy of the test. They have their own trade journal Polygraph in which they report scientifically worthless studies and brandish anecdotes of the wonders of their trade. The majority of these members can pride themselves on completing a 6 week to 6 month post- high school training course in the art of polygraphy. They have no formal training in medicine, psychology, physiology, or behavior; the very disciplines on which the testing is based. The majority of them cater to the legal system wherein their economic livelihood depends.

Since they are primarily paid to identify guilty suspects, motivational factors may play a part in their eagerness to find the guilty suspect. (Kleinmuntz, 1987)

The accuracy of any test is determined by that test’s sensitivity (ability to find a positive) and specificity (ability to find a negative). A polygraph examiner will ardently tell you that the exam has somewhere in the neighborhood of a 95% sensitivity rate. This means that if 100 guilty suspects are given a polygraph exam, 95 of them will be detected through the test. Only five of the 100 will be a false negative and not be detected by this miraculous method. Likewise they will claim a similar specificity rate, and state that if you are telling the truth then you have almost a 100% chance of being cleared by the test. John Reid, the inventor of the Control Question Test claimed 99% accuracy. (Reid and Inbau, 1977)

This is clearly not accurate. The polygraph was not subjected to much critical and scientific investigation until the last two decades. (Saxe, et al., 1983) Since this time there have been a number of studies of sound scientific design and methodology which clearly refute the high specificity and sensitivity that polygraph advocates claim. These studies have appeared in reputable peer-reviewed journals and not trade publications. Horvath, for example, reported a sensitivity of 76 percent and a specificity of 52 percent. (Horvath, 1977) This means that out of 100 liars 76 of them will be detected by the polygraph. What is astonishing though is the specificity of 52 percent. This means that out of 100 people who are not lying, 52 will be identified as telling the truth while 48 of the honest individuals will be branded as liars. The odds are similar to that of a coin toss which would have a specificity of 50 percent. Barland and Raskin’s study actually demonstrated a specificity of 45%. Worse than a coin toss. (Barland and Raskin, 1976) Multiple other studies have shown similar results. (Brett, et al., 1986, Kleinmuntz and Szucko, 1984, Lykken, 1984).

The polygraph examiner likens his “skill” to that of the radiologist reading a chest X-Ray or a cardiologist interpreting an EKG. (Barefoot, 1974) This analogy is not only ridiculous but, in fact, if a medical test had a similar sensitivity and specificity to that of the polygraph examination it would simply not be used in the field of medicine. They will cite the fact that the polygraph has been used in the United States for greater than 70 years as if longevity is directly related to validity. They will state that they have personally administered hundreds or thousands of these tests, and have almost never been wrong, as if total number of tests given constitutes accuracy.

They are so convinced of the accuracy of the polygraph that they regard opponents of polygraphy as communists and do-nothing professors. (Arther, 1986) It doesn’t occur to them that someone with a Ph.D. and years of research experience, in the very subjects they ignorantly dabble in, may know something more than they do.

It is astounding that the criminal justice system has institutionalized and perpetuated a so called “technology” that lacks scientific evidence and is in fact rejected by the scientific community. It is as ludicrous as procuring the so called “love meter” machine from the amusement park which measures galvanic skin response and placing it in the courtroom. But in a backward legal system which has been known to use psychics to help with unsolved murders and has allowed the mentally retarded to serve as jurors, it is not entirely surprising.

The tool is useful to them, however, in that 25 to 50 percent of examinees will, under the tense psychological pressure of the exam, confess to the misdeed at hand. (Lykken, 1981, Lykken, 1991) Persuaded that they have been proven dishonest by “scientific” means they give up hope. It is usual for the polygraph examiner to interrogate the subject who has failed the test. They will state that there is no way now to deny the objective guilt demonstrated by this impartial and unbiased scientific device, and that the only available option is to confess.

The assessment by the polygrapher is genuinely convincing because, sadly, he believes it himself. Thus the instrument is clearly useful as a confession inducing device. One wonders, over the past 70 years, how many false confessions have been obtained in this way from innocent persons.

In summary, the polygraph is a ludicrous implementation of pseudo-science at its worst. The members of the APA are non-scientists practicing science, and the consequences are often dire. Lykken reports the cases of three men who were convicted of murder largely due to the polygraph examiner’s testimony that in their “expert opinion” they had failed the test. All three were subsequently found to be innocent. (Lykken, 1991) Polygraph examiners ignore such cases or rationalize that they are due to the rare incompetence of some examiners.

The continued use of polygraphic lie detection has the potential to cause much harm to those who are judged dishonest by its results. The specificity and sensitivity are not dissimilar to that of a coin toss. Innocent suspects have about a 50/50 chance. One failure is all it takes to ruin your life. Since the 1923 Federal Court decision of Frye vs United States (293 F 1013 [DC Cir 1923]), polygraph evidence has not been admissible in federal court cases because there was deemed a lack of scientific validity to the test. This travesty however is still used widely by the state court system. Furedy characterizes the continued use of polygraphy as a serious “social disease.” (Furedy, 1987) State laws regarding abuse of the polygraph must change, and it is time for the medical and scientific communities to educate lawmakers and policy makers about the true validity of this perversion of science. It must be forever banished to the same realm of parapsychology as the Ouija Board, phrenology, and palmistry. The relatively conservative American Medical Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs recommended that the polygraph not be used in pre-employment screening and security clearance. (Council on Scientific Affairs, 1986) It is time to extend this recommendation across the board, and put the greater than 3000 anachronistic polygraph examiners in the United States out of business.

Meanwhile, if you are asked to take a polygraph test–don’t do it. Those involved in the criminal justice system, including lawyers, are largely uneducated in the realm of scientific scrutiny and experimental methodology.

They may not separate science and pseudo-science, and erroneously believe that the polygraph is an accurate scientific instrument. Their interactions are with polygraph examiners who proselytize its use, and they have little or no interaction with scientists, psychologists, and physicians who refute its use. Refuse to take the test and educate them. Cite the Frye doctrine, go to the medical library, copy the scientific articles which belie its validity, and present them to whomever requested you to take the test. State that the principles and assumptions underlying polygraphy are not supported by our understanding of psychology, neurology, and physiology. Then put the burden of proof on their heads. Tell them to present you with scientific evidence that corroborates the validity of the test. There is simply no rational basis for a machine to detect liars.

References

Arther RO. 1986. The polygraph’s enemies: An update. Journal of Polygraph Science. 20: 133-136.

Barefoot J. 1974. The Polygraph Story. Cluett Peabody and Co., New York.

Barland, G, Raskin D. 1976. Validity and reliability of polygraph examinations of criminal suspects (Report 76-1, Contract 75 NI-99-0001).

Brett AS, Phillips M, Beary JF. 1986. Predictive power of the polygraph: Can the “lie detector” really detect liars? The Lancet. 1: 544-547.

Council on Scientific Affairs. 1986. Polygraph. Journal of the American Medical Association. 256: 1172-1175.

Furedy JJ. 1987. Evaluating polygraphy from a psychophysiological perspective: a specific-effects analysis. Pavlovian Journal of Biological Sciences.22: 145-151.

Horvath F. 1977. The effect of selected variables on interpretation of polygraph records. Journal of Applied Psychology. 62: 127-136.

Kleinmuntz B. 1987. The predictive power of the polygraph: The lies lie detectors tell. Journal of the American Medical Association. 257: 189-190.

Kleinmuntz B, Szucko J. 1984. A field study of the fallibility of polygraphic lie detection. Nature. 308: 449-450.

Lykken D. 1984. Polygraph Interrogation. Nature. 307: 681-684.

Lykken DT. 1981. A tremor in the blood: Uses and abuses of the lie detector. McGraw-Hill, New York.

Lykken DT. 1991. Why (some) Americans believe in the lie detector while others believe in the guilty knowledge test. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science. 26: 214-222.

Reid JE, Inbau FE. 1977. Truth and deception: The polygraph (“lie detector”) technique. Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore.

Saxe L. 1991. Science and the CQT polygraph: A theoretical critique. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science. 26: 223-231.

Saxe L, Dougherty D, Crosse T. 1983. Scientific validity of polygraph testing: a research review and evaluation. Conference: OTA-TM. U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment.

Steinbrook R. 1992. The polygraph test – A flawed diagnostic method. The New England Journal of Medicine. 327: 122-123.

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Transcription and HTML by AntiPolygraph.org

Published in Gray Areas, Vol. 4, No. 1 (spring 1995), pp. 75-77. This article may also be downloaded as a 1 mb scanned PDF file.https://antipolygraph.org/articles/article-053.pdf


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Class Action Lawsuit Hits Michigan Professional Health Program

Class Action Lawsuit Hits Michigan Professional Health Program

State Physician Health Programs Scurry to Avoid Legal Action, Doctors Outraged

A  lawsuit was filed in Federal Court in March against the organization that monitors impaired professionals for the Michigan State Board of Medicine, alleging constitutional violations, financial conflicts, lack of oversight, and due process.  Three mid-level providers are claiming damages as a result of actions taken by the Health Professional Recovery Program (HPRP), originally established to provide health professionals with a confidential and non-disciplinary approach  to dealing with substance abuse disorders and mental health issues.

The HPRP, administered by a private contractor, was initially designed to monitor treatment of health professionals referred to them by providers.  But plaintiffs claim the program’s administrators are overruling treatment decisions by board-certified and licensed physicians in favor of coercion of individuals into a small group of selected treatment facilities that are also charged with providing an initial evaluation of the need for treatment. Treatment facilities are expensive, and in most cases, insurance companies don’t consider these admissions to be medically necessary.

In one case cited in the court filing, the plaintiff was told she would have to stop taking pain medication prescribed by her treating physician for a period of two years. This decision was made after a short evaluation during which the evaluator did not contact the treating provider, and when the plaintiff refused to agree, her nursing license was summarily suspended. Her suspension was later dissolved in court. This is one small example, but it’s telling, Last time I checked, doctors had the right to choose a healthcare provider. It is surprising that the Michigan Medical Board would support a policy that essentially declares many of their own licensees inadequate to provide a treatment plan.

Unfortunately, this is not the only professional health program faced with backlash for financial double dealing and coercion. North Carolina physicians’ complaints promoted the North Carolina State Auditor to investigate oversight by the medical board in that state, and she found evidence of lack of oversight and the appearance of conflict of interest. Money flowed directly from the “impaired physician program” to their “approved providers” in the form of scholarships for the doctors they referred.

A common pattern has emerged in the treatment of doctors for mental illness or substance abuse. Agencies that were originally installed as volunteer boards aimed at helping doctors return to practice safely have been populated with a new group of professionals – doctors who are closely tied to treatment facilities or drug testing companies who frequently have their own history of substance abuse issues.

A recent string of posts on SERMO, the world’s largest physician-only social network, received a lot of attention. It is clear there have been a lot of abuses, sharing of confidential information, and lack of due process for participants. Many object to the religious overtones of every program that is “approved” for doctors by the Federation of State Physician Health Committees, the parent organization that has formed to keep all state committees notified of talking points. Physicians are currently subjected to polygraph tests, a practice most Americans would never accept. The term “disruptive physician” is an easy way to target those who speak out against a system that has become adversarial.

There are 400 suicide deaths annually among US physicians. Many of these doctors suicide when under investigation or contract with the committees originally designed to help them return to health. Other doctors are afraid to speak out, for fear of reprisal, particularly when in a contract with their PHP.

Have you heard of a colleague who has self-reported or has been reported for mental health or substance issues? Perhaps you have experienced a period of mental health crisis in your own life. How did you handle reporting requirements? What rights should doctors enjoy?