Sharon Stone has publicly said that medical professionals missed a large fibroid tumor. This followed a prior incident where she reported that she was given larger breast implants without her knowledge while undergoing reconstruction surgery. We all know that Michael Jackson was killed by his personal doctor, who failed to monitor him while he was given Propofol (an anesthetic that is never used at home). Dr. Murray was on the payroll for $150K a month!
There are dozens of stories of wealthy celebrities who received poor medical care. Dennis Quaid and his wife settled a case where their newborn twins were given the wrong drug and spent weeks in the ICU. Julie Andrews suffered a botched vocal cord surgery when the wrong side was operated on. Healthy Joan Rivers died prematurely during a routine endoscopy (where the staff was snapping photos of her). John Ritter died of a dissecting aorta missed on a CT scan. Pop singer Kylie Minogue was misdiagnosed with breast cancer. And we’ve all seen the photos of botched plastic surgery. Yikes! The list goes on and on.
Since they can afford the absolute best and travel in private jets anywhere in the world to get medical care, why do celebrities seem to get worse care than us average folks? I call it the Scourge of the VIP. Looks, fame, money, and status can be deadly if doctors get dazzled and treat stars differently than evidence-based medical practice. Celebrities can be entitled and demanding, and the “doctors to the stars” and hospitals may cater to them in ways that end up harming. Trevor Noah filed a lawsuit against his doctors and hospital for “failing to treat and care for him carefully and skillfully.” The key words here are “careful and skillful.” When doctors become unconventional and start catering to celebrities, complications follow. Snapping a selfie during surgery, making home visits with dangerous medications, doing procedures without proper safety, and enjoying the status rather than focusing on the patient as an ordinary person leads to medical errors.
Medical professionals must check if they start fawning over a celebrity. We can say “no” if it is not medically indicated, even if the famous (wealthy) person doesn’t like it. We should all want a doctor who says “no” with a good reason. Too many interventions can be done but shouldn’t be done. And getting a second opinion is always a wise choice if you feel ignored or question a diagnosis.
Every patient is a VIP. In medicine, equal treatment can be life-saving.
Toni Brayer is an internal medicine physician.