Why would anyone lie about you? And what makes you prone to conviction? There are three types of people that will absolutely bring your world crashing down on you, and you need to know who they are. But first, we need to understand the formula that prosecutors have developed to target doctors.
Prosecutors go after doctors because they are easy targets. The formula developed by prosecutors has three steps: First, make the doctor look greedy and shady in the media; second, find someone willing to lie about their practice; and third, confuse a medically naive jury about what the usual practice of medicine for a legitimate medical purpose really is.
The first is easy; today’s media does not fact-check what the authorities feed them and are only too happy to parrot what they are told. Talk about a doctor accepting cash or driving a nice car, hint that they care more about money than they do about their patients, suggest that they are known as “Dr. Feelgood.” That’s a classic that goes all the way back to Elvis. Now comes step two: Find a good liar.
Who is willing to lie about a doctor? There are three categories of people that you need to be aware of. These are:
- Angry patients dismissed for cause.
- Disgruntled employees you had to fire.
- Jealous competitors.
Let’s look at each of these individually.
When you find a patient that is abusing your trust by diverting medication, you will feel a righteous indignation. You will often be angry and speak to them harshly. But even if you approach them with compassion and understanding, tapering them down and referring them to counseling, these patients become ticking time bombs and the prosecutor’s best friend. They don’t have to come back and shoot you and your staff, as some angry patients have done. All they have to do is get caught selling drugs or medications, and they have a get-out-of-jail-free card. These patients have already become adept at lying convincingly, or they wouldn’t have been your patient in the first place. And they are very adept at street survival. When the prosecutor says, “We can’t help you with your charges unless you can help us with Doctor X,” they know exactly what that means.
When an employee works for you, they get to know your practice well, they hear the stupid jokes and off-hand statements made by some staff and patients. They hear a lot more than you do. And these aren’t stupid people. Any real mistakes you make or blind spots you have are noted by them, even when they are not expressed to you. While you are paying their salary, they look at you with compassion and affection. But the minute you have to let someone go, whether for cause or just financial reasons, that affection becomes bitterness. We have all seen love turn to hate in romantic relationships. And don’t be surprised when someone you tried to help when their work was substandard or their personal lives interfered too much, turns on you. People in the medical field know all too well how easy it is to call the medical board, insurance companies, or the DEA to destroy you.
And finally, the jealous competitor. You might think that physicians and those in the medical profession are at a higher level of moral development. But that’s not always the case. These people are human beings, subject to every flaw and frailty people have had throughout history. They will get jealous if you do better than they do, assuming that you are just lucky or cheating somehow. If you have a better rapport with patients, it’s not because the other doctor’s a jerk, it’s because you coddle your patients or give them what they want instead of what they need. And if you treat pain or addiction, this becomes a very powerful weapon to use against you. ER doctors are famous for exclaiming, “Who put you on this much medication!” having no clue what it’s like to have to treat patients suffering with terrible maladies day after day, year after year. Controlled medication Luddites and those who don’t treat people with these problems will tell everyone who listens that you are prescribing “too much.” And this gets around, to local law enforcement. And if that competitor picks up the phone, as one of mine did, to the DEA, federal prosecutors and the DEA will not give you the benefit of the doubt. A phone call or report is all it takes.
Step two is now complete: a patient in custody, a former employee angry over being fired, and a jealous competitor who wants you out of the way. These are the things that will everything you spent your life achieving. And don’t think the truth will set you free. The truth becomes indistinguishable from a lie in a courtroom when one of those three people raises their hand and testifies falsely about you.
Step three is a breeze. Indictment in this country is a foregone conclusion. Prosecutors are under no real obligation to tell the truth. Who’s going to prosecute them if they knowingly allow liars to take the stand? And once indicted, you will lose your ability to practice and fund a defense. You will be forced to take a plea or face those same lies in court, where you will come against people very skilled at deception.
Be aware of these three threats to your practice. Be very careful whom you accept as a patient and whom you hire. And when you must make someone angry, document everything as carefully as possible. And establish a good relationship with a health care specialty law group that practices civil and criminal law. Otherwise, you will not have a chance when they kick down your door.
L. Joseph Parker is a research physician.