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Are we better than this?

January 25, 2015

This week the local and national attention has been riveted on accusations that Bill Belichick and the Patriots football team deliberately deflated the footballs used in the division championship game.  Football, remember, is a multi-billion dollar industry in which the commodity being sold is grown men throwing brown oblong balls at each other and knocking each other down., a media partner of the Boston Globe, had no fewer than 6 articles on the subject on it’s home page.

Meanwhile, in a quiet corner of Wellesley, a woman I count as a friend mourns her husband.  Surrounded by people and casseroles, children and pastries, she stands as a sharp rebuke to the fickleness and shallowness of our child-like attention span.  She asks us to talk about things that matter.

I wrote a post last week about the death of this woman’s husband, Dr. Michael Davidson, who was murdered in his own clinic by a man who blamed him for his mother’s death.  Since then I have spoken to friends and colleagues who knew him, gone to the funeral, helped sit Shiva with my fellow mourners, and I find something missing.


The Boston medical community has poured out sympathy and support, the media was interested for about a day, and everyone shakes their heads and says “what a shame”.  Medical administrators mumble about hospital safety procedures and metal detectors.  We shouldn’t be asking how to protect doctors.  We should be asking ourselves why we have to.

I have written many many times on this site and others about the deterioration of trust between physicians and patients.  I have railed about the culture of litigation and the cover-your-ass medicine that results.  I have written about how the language of lawsuits and the prolonged legal proceedings destroy lives.  Never did I think I would have to talk about murder.

Medicine has made tremendous strides.  We can do things now beyond the wildest dreams of our predecessors.  But people still get sick, people still have complications, people still die.  It is part of being human.  And death, especially when it comes at the end of a long life or long illness, should be an event that causes us to come together in honor of the dying and in support of those who care for them.  Blame, if it can be put anywhere, should fall on fate, or God, or the illness, or the mortality of all living things.  Dr. Davidson didn’t practice cover-your-ass medicine.  He ran towards challenge, operated when no one else wanted to, took care of the sickest.  He willingly and cheerfully met his murderer, who asked for him by name.

It is not just the death of one man that should enrage us. It is the erosion of trust and the decline of basic decency.  It is about our relationships with each other.  We should be angry.  And not about footballs.



From → Healthcare

  1. Excellent essay. Thank you. (Typo in penultimate sentence detracts from the ending.)

  2. My thought about why are these: The public has half of the information. They cannot know what the medical community knows.(or they would be Md’s them selves). The press and social media encourages negative things about many things that make news they leave out the nuance of medical practice. People want to live and families of the ill want them to live. It is hard as a patient (I have been one with a serious illness) to think normally. They(we ) are scared regardless of what we know. I don’t know the solution. I am only offering something to think about. It is very sad that a physician is killed for doing his job. I also object to “cover you ass” practice and don’t do it as a first thought. To me the patient comes first…then I cover

  3. Miriam Whitehouse permalink

    You are so right. Why aren’t people asking themselves how this could happen? It’s hard for any of us to understand why a man would kill like that. It’s hard for me to even begin to figure out what we can do to prevent another tragic death. The answer has to be about more than better security at hospitals. Maybe we can’t prevent someone from becoming unhinged by grief. People think that modern medicine should be able to cure almost anything, but of course, it can’t.
    Sadly, many people simply avoid thinking about things that don’t have a clear cut explanation or solution. It’s far easier to obsess about a game.

  4. There are so many things that could be said about the tragic death of Dr Davidson. No words are adequate to express the horror we all feel or the sadness we feel for the tragedy of his loss for his entire family, friends and community.

    For now I have a different question. Why are the hospitals and the Doctors not up in arms and insisting on much tighter gun control laws? Why is every physician not organising a march on Washington to protest the gun laws in the USA

    Are their conflicting interests at stake here? Or have I missed the huge outcry against the powerful gun lobby where I would have directed at least at some of my horror at what happened to Dr Davidson?

    • The gun control issue is much like abortion, or climate change, or vaccinations. People have decided what they believe and no amount of factual information will change their minds. If we couldn’t get gun laws changed after Newtown, don’t expect anything from the death of one surgeon.

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