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Trisha Torrey

Ticked Off Doctor Sues Patient's Son for Comments About Bedside Manner

By May 16, 2011

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In April 2010, Kenneth Laurion, a man in his mid-80s from Duluth, Minnesota, suffered a stroke.

His doctor, Dr. David McKee, must have been a real S. O. B. - abrupt and rude at the very least. As a result, Mr. Laurion's son, Dennis, contacted the powers-that-be to complain. He recounted his experience to groups like the American Academy of Neurology, the American Neurological Association, two physicians in Duluth, Minnesota (where all this took place) the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee and St. Luke's hospital, and others - 19 in total.

Dennis Laurion told those groups that Dr. McKee (quoted here from the Duluth News Tribune):

. . . "seemed upset" that Kenneth Laurion had been transferred from the Intensive Care Unit to a ward room; that McKee told the Laurion family that he had to "spend time finding out if [the patient] had been transferred or died;" that McKee told the Laurions that 44 percent of hemorrhagic stroke victims die within 30 days; that McKee told the patient that he didn't need therapy; that McKee said it didn't matter that the patient's gown was hanging from his neck with his backside exposed; that McKee blamed the patient for the loss of his time; and that McKee didn't treat his patient with dignity.

In return, Dr. McKee got ticked off, defended his actions - and sued Dennis Laurion for making libelous statements.

But the judge dismissed the suit citing the fact that there was no evidence to show the doctor had been harmed, and stated that nothing defamatory had taken place - that his statements seemed to be more about an emotional discussion of the issues.

So what's the take-away for those of us who have had our own run-in with doctors? Plenty.

First - most of us have had our own experiences with arrogant and condescending doctors - doctors who are so full of themselves and their own lives that they treat us like dirt. They need a cummupence of their own. (For them I wish the karma of their own health challenges to give them some flavor of exactly what they are doing to their patients. No harm wished - just karma. They seem to learn really quickly that way. )

And yes - we have the right and perhaps even the obligation to complain, just as Dennis Laurion did. I've written before about how it's incumbent upon us to make sure the right people know how poorly we were treated. It's the only way to instill the necessary attitude adjustments. (If you think about it, I'll bet Dr. McKee will be a little more thoughtful the next time he wants to heap his S. O. B. -ness on another patient or loved one!) The only caveat is that we must recount exactly our experiences - not shade or embellish them. Report problems as if you were a journalist describing the experience - not the emotions, just the facts.

But I also remind you that nice doctors are not the same as competent doctors - and (as one of my twitter doctor friends reminds me) - competent doctors aren't always nice. Sometimes we just have to recognize that getting good medical care might require us to put up (in the short term) with this kind of arrogance, no matter how difficult and disconcerting it might be. That doesn't make it right. It just is what it is.

But the bottom line, to me, is this. . . . decent medical care requires a variety of skills from our doctors including the mechanics of medicine, and the respectful communications that go along with that, too. By reporting the transgressions of Dr. David McKee to those many groups he interfaces with, Dennis Laurion did Dr. McKee's future patients a favor.

Next time around, Dr. McKee will think twice before he accosts his patients and their families with his insulting and callous behavior. And that's as it should be.

How to Deal with an Arrogant Doctor

Share your Story about Dealing with Arrogance

How to Complain to your Doctor

(Update!  February 2013:  This case went all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court with what you may find to be a surprising result.  Read more.)

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Comments
May 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm
(1) Bob James, M.D., J.D. says:

Trish: Is there some proof of what actually happened that was not reported or are we just assuming that the doctor is an S.O.B. and that the patient’s family is correct? Many “doctor stories” are certainly reported with that slant and assumption nowadays!

May 18, 2011 at 12:50 am
(2) Reddit Reader says:

You can Google “if you transferred or died,” and you’ll find
http://www.hospitalgripe.com/complaints/I-had-to-find-out-if-you-transferred-or-died_93.0.15.html .

May 19, 2011 at 2:17 am
(3) Reddit Reader says:
May 19, 2011 at 3:46 am
(4) Steven kussin says:

Nice is good Smart is better. Nice+smart=best. The best of anything is rare. Brains trump nice

May 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm
(5) eileen says:

We have to assume that what the patient’s son said was actually what hapened. People don’t waste their valuable time making false complaints like that. Especially when their family member is sick. I believe the doctor said all those things.

June 3, 2011 at 8:58 pm
(6) sciquest says:

Whether the doctor said those things isn’t in dispute – doctor acknowledged he said them. Problem is that while the doctor thought he was being humorous, the family was understandably in a vulnerable state and took offense.

Doctor should probably try to take it down a notch and be more sensitive, but after reading the links, I don’t think he was being as big a bastard as the family perceived.

I can put up with a gruff or crusty doctor, but where I draw the line is when s/he (actually never a she in my experience though) is narcissistic – as defined by defensive, evasive or unwilling to explain things, doesn’t answer questions, unwilling to spend appropriate time in consultation before a major procedure, omitting important details, judgmental. This is a doctor who will completely freeze you out if you have a bad outcome. Sadly, I learned this from experience.

I’m willing to put up with arrogance so long as the doctor has the chops to back it up. If everything goes perfectly, perhaps they’ve earned the right to be a bastard.

But when they make a mistake, in my mind they lose the right to be arrogant. If it’s surgery, you need to figure out what kind of person you’re dealing with *before* your major procedure. If it’s ongoing care and the doctor’s a jerk, you’re lucky you can probably just move on to another doctor.

June 4, 2011 at 2:38 am
(7) sciquest says:

Oh, and comment #4, (“Nice+smart=best”) reminded me that often it’s the prickly ones who aren’t really the best at what they do; they’re on the defensive all the time and work very hard at projecting an air of superiority. I often find that it’s the truly great ones who are much more approachable as they aren’t easily threatened and they don’t have anything to prove. I perceived this pattern amongst software developers as well as doctors.

Auto mechanics, however, I have only a sample size of one since he’s been my mechanic since my first car, and he’s grumpy all the time, but does great work, is a master diagnostician (always fixed right the first time) and always tries to save me money. Important to note however that even though he’s grumpy, he’s still actually willing to explain his reasoning and seems slightly pleased (or maybe, just amused) that I’m interested enough to ask any technical questions. Sometime the genius is just an oddball.

July 4, 2011 at 6:43 pm
(8) Anonymous Reader says:

The doctor has appealed the dismissal, according to “a href=”http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110629/03411314906/doctor-plans-to-appeal-ruling-that-said-complaining-about-his-bedside-manner-was-not-defamation.shtml#comments”>Tech Dirt.

January 28, 2012 at 7:04 pm
(9) Content Scraper says:

The Minnesota Court of Appeals sent back for trial the case of Dr. David McKee v. Dennis Laurion. District Court Judge Eric Hylden had ruled that McKee was not defamed by the criticism and threw out the doctor’s lawsuit . . .

McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, filed the
defamation lawsuit against the son of one of his patients in June 2010. McKee alleges that Laurion defamed him and interfered with his business by posting false statements on the internet . . .

Laurion’s defense attorney, John Kelly of Duluth, had gained summary
judgment from Hylden . . . Hylden wrote that the alleged defamatory
statements constituted opinions, true statements and statements too vague to carry defamatory meaning . . .

The appellate court determined McKee’s defamation suit should proceed regarding six claims Laurion publicly made about McKee:
. That McKee told the patient he had to “spend time finding out if you were transferred or died.”
. That McKee said, “44 percent of hemorrhagic strokes die within 30 days. I guess this is the better option.”
. That McKee said, “You don’t need therapy.”
. That McKee said, “It doesn’t matter” that the patients gown did not
cover his backside.
. That McKee left the patient’s room without talking to the patient’s
family.
. That a nurse told Laurion that McKee was “a real tool.”

In an e-mail to the News Tribune, Laurion said “While being sued for
defamation, I have been called a passive aggressive, an oddball, a liar, a coward, a bully, a malicious person, and a zealot family member,” Laurion wrote. “I’ve been said to have run a cottage industry vendetta, writing 19 letters, and posting 108 adverse Internet postings in person or through proxies. In reality, I posted ratings at three consumer rating sites, deleted them, and never rewrote them again . . .

Duluth News Tribune, January 24, 2012
http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/220804/

August 19, 2012 at 5:29 am
(10) Content Scraper says:

The Minnesota Supreme Court has agreed to review the Minnesota Court of Appeals decision in David McKee MD vs Dennis Laurion. Oral arguments will be heard September 4, 2012, in the Stat5e Capitol Building (Case Number A11-1154).

October 19, 2012 at 12:49 am
(11) Court Watch says:

State Supreme Court Hears Online Doctor Rating Defamation Suit SEP 2012

Star Tribune, September 4, 2012, Maura Lerner

Two years ago, a Duluth neurologist, Dr. David McKee, sued the son of an elderly patient for defamation over some negative comments that were posted on rate-your-doctor websites.

On Tuesday, the state’s top court was asked to decide whether the lawsuit should finally go to trial, after the case was thrown out by a lower court and reinstated on appeal. The lawsuit is one of a growing number of legal battles testing the limits of free speech on the Internet.

A good portion of the oral arguments were devoted to the meaning of the words that Dennis Laurion, 65, used to describe his family’s encounter with McKee in April, 2010, when Laurion’s father, Kenneth, then 84, was hospitalized with a stroke.

John Kelly, Laurion’s attorney, noted that Internet sites are a “free for all” for people to share opinions and that his client’s comments were perfectly appropriate. “We have a word, the word ‘tool,’” Kelly told the justices. “When you look at the word, you have to ask: Is it defamatory?” He argued that the phrase, while “it clearly is not a compliment,” is no worse than “calling someone an idiot or a fool.”

During questioning, some of the justices seemed to agree. “Saying someone’s a ‘real tool’ sounds more like an opinion than a statement of fact,” Justice Christopher Dietzen said. Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea had a similar reaction. “The point of the post is, ‘This doctor did not treat my father well,’” she said. “I can’t grasp why that wouldn’t be protected opinion.”

Full Article:
http://www.startribune.com/printarticle/?id=168552176

February 10, 2013 at 11:27 pm
(12) David McKee says:

Okay let me set you straight on a few things. First, Mr Laurion and I do not agree at all as to what was said and what happened. More importantly, Mr. Laurion (the son, not the patient) contradicted his account of what happened numerous times. No Trisha, I am not a real SOB as you have concluded based on accepting the statements which I sued Laurion over as truthful. If they were truthful I would not have brought the suit forward. Dennis Laurion is a sick malicious bully. He wrote several versions of what transpired in his father’s hospital room, each more slanderous and exaggerated than the last. As an example, in the earliest versions of Laurion’s description, he mentioned, accurately, that I helped his father to a standing position. A later version stated that I pulled his father out of bed; still later that I jerked his father against a closed bedrail and against his will.

Laurion also complained that I humiliated his father by not tying the back of his father’s

February 10, 2013 at 11:28 pm
(13) David McKee says:

hospital gown. In fact, Dennis Laurion was sitting in a chair on the same side of his father’s bed as the patient. He would have needed only to lean forward a little to reach the ties of the gown. I was on the opposite side of the bed and could not have reached the back of the gown if I had wanted to.

After I left the patient’s room I was sitting at a nurses station only 30 feet from where Dennis Laurion was sitting and in plain sight. He could have discussed any concern with me then without the slightest difficulty. Instead he chose to begin his smear campaign against me. He fired off 19 letters of complaint within the next few days.

He tried for several weeks to get the local media outlets interested; none would have anything to do with him until he met up with Mark Stodghill of the Duluth News Tribune. The two of them met several times over a 2 week period to come up with a great doctor bashing piece of propaganda. Stodghill placed a call to my office at 4:55 p.m. on a Friday. I was not on call and had left for the day. This was the only attempt he made to contact me. The newspaper article came out only 10 hours later. Still the one half hearted attempt to reach me allowed the reporter to accurately state that “calls to Dr. McKee were not returned”, implying that I had something to hide. The article was so biased that of approximately 80 conversations with patients who brought up the matter, only 2 understood that I was suing Laurion; the rest misunderstood and believed I was being sued by Laurion.

I have been the victim of a cowardly relentless series of attacks by a truly sick human being. The fact that you appear to always assume that if a complaint is made against a physician, the physician must be in the wrong, makes you little better than Mark Stodghill who was willing to use the lowest possible journalistic standards seemingly designed to get the story wrong so as to allow for the most inflammatory headline possible.

February 11, 2013 at 9:46 am
(14) Trisha Torrey says:
February 11, 2013 at 11:38 am
(15) Dennis Laurion says:

” As an example, in the earliest versions of Laurion’s description, he mentioned, accurately, that I helped his father to a standing position. A later version stated that I pulled his father out of bed; still later that I jerked his father against a closed bedrail and against his will.”

In my postings to the public, I stopped short of details that would have embarrassed my father but shared those details with a state agency. McKee is apparently including my comments to a state agency, while insisting he didn’t sue me for those contacts.

“He fired off 19 letters of complaint within the next few days.”

McKee is apparently counting letters that I wrote as a response to his suit.

“He tried for several weeks to get the local media outlets interested; none would have anything to do with him until he met up with Mark Stodghill of the Duluth News Tribune. The two of them met several times over a 2 week period to come up with a great doctor bashing piece of propaganda.”

When McKee sent a threat letter, I asked 3 local media outlets if such a suit would be a “man bites dog” story. I never mentioned McKee’s name and would not have, had there been no suit. In spite of follow-up inquiries by the press, I demurred giving his name until a public record existed. On the day of filing, Mr. Stodghill found the public record without my prompting and ran the story. Mr Stodghill contacted me once by email and once by phone. We did not meet over any time period, and I did not recognize Mr. Stodghill, who was covering my first court appearance.

February 11, 2013 at 11:40 am
(16) Dennis Laurion says:

“Dennis Laurion was sitting in a chair on the same side of his father’s bed as the patient. He would have needed only to lean forward a little to reach the ties of the gown.”

While my father was lying down, and when he was seated, I was unaware that the back string was untied. It was my father who mentioned his parting gown. We then insisted on leaving the room to wait in the hall.

“I have been the victim of a cowardly relentless series of attacks by a truly sick human being.”

McKee has learned to exercise his own free-speech rights. In earlier responses to publicity, I’ve been called an oddball sort of fellow, passive-aggressive, liar, bully, coward, and malicious person.

I think somebody should have told McKee about the Streisand Effect.

I feel that I have been the victim of a game of financial attrition that I haven’t wanted to play.

February 12, 2013 at 11:19 pm
(17) David McKee says:

Trisha, just read the first sentence of your post. You concluded by the fact that Laurion Made disparaging (and inaccurate) comments and complaints that “…Dr McKee must have been a real SOB, abrupt and rude at the very least” You had no grounds for such an emphatic conclusion. The conclusion is reasonable only if you somehow know the statements made by Laurion are accurate. The fact that I brought a lawsuit against him for inaccurately portraying my interaction with his father should cast enough doubt to preclude your statement presented as fact. You also concluded that because I responded to your defamatory statement I proved your original premise….HUH???
So the doctor is wrong because Laurion says he behaved poorly and the doctor is wrong again because he responds to your unfounded and malignant comments. Nice.
As for Laurion’s recent responses they are inaccurate and very disingenuous and he knows it. He did file 19 letters of complaint based on an innocuous interaction with his father; including 2 complaints to the MN Board of Medical Practice. The second was filed as if written by his wife; though in deposition his wife acknowledged Laurion wrote both letters (the second was an exaggeration of the first; neither resulted in any action by the board). There is substantial evidence that on learning that his original motion to dismiss was going to be acted on favorably he and others encouraged by Laurion, made roughly 120 negative entries on various doctor rating sites. This occurred in a 2 day period and before the court’s decision was made public. There is no chance that this was action taken by actual patients or that it occurred spontaneously. Yes I think the term bully is, if anything an understatement.

February 12, 2013 at 11:19 pm
(18) David McKee says:

As for Laurion’s suggestion that he is somehow a victim of a game of financial attrition. He was given multiple opportunities to settle without financial demands. When he was deposed he acknowledged that he went back on the offensive despite the very early option of settling at essentially no cost. The 120 March 2011 postings will likely form the basis of a second suit. Laurion has repeatedly refused to guarantee that he will not engage in further slander so I really have no option here. One of the great injustices is that people like you assume the physician must be at fault and are willing to attack without bothering to investigate. Your illogical deductions are not investigation. In the end, the negative commentary sticks to the physician as a permanent aspect of his reputation whereas people like you profit whether your statements are accurate or not. For Laurion to cast himself as the victim of my responses is cynical beyond measure.
Since you choose to reach your conclusions by inference you might chew on this. I have been in practice for 22 years. I have evaluated over 20,000 patients during that time. I estimate that, on average I have met one family member for each patient. Conservatively that makes 40,000 patients and family members. Dennis Laurion’s 19 letters of complaint amount to 75% of the complaints I have received in total vs. hundreds of letters thanks, gratitude etc. But it is primarily Laurion’s mischief that shows up when patients, friends, family research my name.

Trisha I think it is your arrogance that is the real problem here. You are so self certain that you can determine right and wrong by inference that investigation is not needed. I am not going to make any further posts on this site but you need to clean up your act.

February 20, 2013 at 9:44 am
(19) smithjones says:

Dennis Laurion should get a life.

February 21, 2013 at 3:03 pm
(20) dennis says:

“Mr Laurion and I do not agree at all as to what was said and what happened.”

I agree.

February 21, 2013 at 3:14 pm
(21) Trisha Torrey says:

Touche!

Sometimes the only answer is to agree to disagree.

Far easier when egos are left at the door.

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