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Trisha Torrey

And David McKee Fires Back... Proving the Point?

By February 11, 2013

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Last week, I followed up on the final Minnesota Supreme Court verdict in the lawsuit where Dr. David McKee, a neurologist, sued his patient's son, Kenneth Laurion, who was so unhappy with Dr. McKee's treatment of his father, that he posted negative reviews all over the internet, citing Dr. McKee's arrogance.

And Dr. McKee is NOT happy with the verdict, or my assessment of it.

In fact, he is so unhappy that he posted comments to the original post from 2011 where I told you about the lawsuit when the first court reached a verdict.  Because that post is so old, and therefore few would ever see the comments, I wanted to bring to your attention just what he said.

Read the original post.

Read Dr. McKee's comments (scroll to the bottom of the comments).

And here is my reply to Dr. McKee:

Dr. McKee,

This is strictly "he said, he said" - and it cannot be recreated or witnessed.  That means we are left with the perceptions of the two people involved and, truthfully, neither one of you gets big points for handling this well.

However, YOU are the professional.  As such, part of your responsibility is to communicate clearly and with enough compassion and empathy that your patients and their loved ones don't misunderstand (or mis-translate) what you have said, decided, ordered or done.

Look - I can understand that you were upset at what he said about what he perceived as your arrogance. But as is true in any form of communication - perception is the receiver's reality. Had you not come across as brusque, callous, disrespectful, arrogant, or any other adjective for disconnected one can use, Mr. Laurion would not have pursued a public punishment for you.

And when he did, I dare say, fixing it would have required only an apology from you, whether or not you agreed with his perception.  Two words, "I'm sorry," would have made a world of difference.

Would that have been so difficult? Evidently, yes. The fact that you are now calling him names as if you were both in middle school speaks volumes. Even if Mr. Laurion is a bully, that must have been triggered by something.  So instead of taking care of it the way a professional should, you instead chose to escalate the problem.  Unprofessional and undignified.

Sadly (from your perspective), instead you have become the poster boy for doctors who don't communicate well, providing a lesson for all doctors who arrogantly treat their patients and families like second-class citizens.  You may have outstanding neurology skills (I have no idea if you do or don't), but if you can't communicate respectfully, clearly and with empathy, then your skills as a physician are lacking, and your patients and their families are not being well-served.

Trisha Torrey

As I said in the follow up post last week about the verdict from the Minnesota Supreme Court - there is no room for arrogance in medicine. Period.

For Dr. McKee, that has become a very expensive lesson.

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Agree? Disagree?
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February 11, 2013 at 11:47 am
(1) 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 11, 2013 at 12:57 pm
(2) 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 including 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 15, 2013 at 6:29 am
(3) Kate says:

We have been in this same position. After a surgery, a relentless front desk manager who had no experience started. she was rude, called me a druggie, and why were my doses so high ( I had just left the hospital with 1/2 my chest cut open. We had asked our Dr. if we could not deal with her and he said,”Sorry just hired her”. We said we’d be leaving after almost 3 years of monthly appts we were close. I got my records-all looked fine. Fast foward 10 days-thet new manager had placed a 3 page rant that was not in any of my records anywhere But somehow the new pain dr.we were to see had received this, saying I was a constant pill abuser & no one would treat me so I was fired from last office & did not leave on my own; nothing had a date/explanation. As soon as this interviewing pain dr. started firing mean, crazy questions, I thought he was lying and wanted to see the records, he would’nt let me & I I started to cry & they had me escorted from his office. Tried again & it happened again-this time I called my dr and begged him him to tell me what was going on-he had no idea. There was nothing he could do-he couldn’t remove it. I was crazy, I said I need meds, I need Physical therapy, my surgeoun won’t see me because he said your office said you fired me. He said I’m sorry & hung up. So all these years later I never had therapy. My leg healed improperly there’s nerve damage. I had to withdrawl myself & because I wrote 4 bad reviews-He is still suing my husband and I for 100K . I have had to have 2 more sugeries since & we DON’T have $$ laying around, worse yet, on each of the places where I put a bad review the office manager or maybe the Dr. put my private medical records along with saying I was fired for drug abuse, which is probably why they kept me as a patient for 3 yrs? (sarcasm) Plus what she/dr. did by writing my private health info on public sites each time is a huge HIPPA fine each time.

February 24, 2013 at 6:22 pm
(4) Free Speech says:

The doctor said in his deposition that with regard to finding out if Mr. Laurion was alive or dead, “I made a jocular comment… to the effect of I had looked for [Kenneth Laurion] up there in the intensive care unit and was glad to find that, when he wasn’t there, that he had been moved to a regular hospital bed, because you only go one of two ways when you leave the intensive care unit; you either have improved to the point where you’re someplace like this or you leave because you’ve died.”

The court said the differences between the two versions of the statements about death or transfer by both plaintiff and defendant were so minor that there was no falsity in the website posting abut that statement. In other words, the court indicated that the allegation about the statement having been made was true, for purposes of the court’s decision.

Source: http://blogs.duanemorris.com/duanemorrisnewmedialawblog/entry/bedside_manners_was_the_doctor

September 13, 2013 at 4:45 am
(5) Tribune Reader says:

<i><b>He tried for several weeks to get the local media outlets interested; none would have anything to do with him until <b>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. 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.</b></i>

Ross Litman, St. Louis County sheriff:

Retiring News Tribune reporter Mark Stodghill is someone I trust and respect and will miss.
He was fair and, he was accurate in every story he covered and every article he wrote. He didn’t make things up, go on a witch hunt or pursue a particular angle for the sake of winning an award from some oblique news organization.

Gordon Ramsay, Chief of the Duluth Police Department:

I know Mark worked diligently to always be fair to victims and suspects alike. He cared about getting his stories right and worked diligently to ensure they were accurate.

Fred Friedman, Northeastern Minnesota Chief Public Defender:

The best writers, including Mark, tell a good story in a fair way and always invite comment from the participants before publication. I know he endeavored to be fair and thorough

Mark S. Rubin, St. Louis County attorney:

Mark Stodghill has practiced his craft with the utmost of integrity and responsibility. Just ask anyone who has worked in the courts and criminal justice system over the last 35 years; they will tell you Mark was respectfully relentless in his efforts to get his stories right.

December 21, 2013 at 4:52 am
(6) Chicago Brick says:

This lawsuit, McKee v Laurion, was named among “The top lawsuits of 2013″ by “Twin Cities Business Magazine” on December 20, 2013:

Dr. David McKee, a Duluth neurologist, was not laughing when he saw what one former client wrote about him on a doctor-rating website. The reviewer, Dennis Laurion, complained that McKee made statements that he interpreted as rude. McKee felt his reputation was being tarnished. He sued, and began a four-year journey that ended this year in the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Laurion was unhappy with the way McKee treated his father, who was brought to the doctor after he had a stroke. Laurion went to several rate-your-doctor sites to give his opinion. That’s just free speech, isn’t it?

It sure is, says Laurion’s attorney, John D. Kelly of the Duluth firm Hanft Fride. “The court held that what my client was quoted as saying was not defamatory,” he says. “I do think the Internet makes it much easier for persons exercising poor judgment to broadcast defamatory statements, however… a medium… doesn’t change the quality of a statement from non-defamatory to defamatory.”

But McKee’s lawyer, Marshall Tanick, of Hellmuth & Johnson, says no matter where it was said, defamation is defamation. “The thing that’s often misunderstood is that this was not just about free speech, but about making actual false statements,” Tanick says. “The problem is today’s unfettered opportunity to express opinion, whether or not the substance of what’s said is true or not. We need some boundaries.”

But boundaries were not on the minds of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Free speech was. Chief Justice Lorie Gildea wrote, “The point of the post is, ‘This doctor did not treat my father well.’ I can’t grasp why that wouldn’t be protected opinion.”

As to referring to the doctor as “a real tool,” Justice Alan Page wrote that the insult “falls into the category of pure opinion because the term … cannot be reasonably interpreted as a fact and it cannot be proven true or false.”

January 7, 2014 at 2:58 am
(7) Dennis says:

In spite of Supreme Court disagreement and subsequent peer disagreement, Marshall Tanick is STILL saying “The thing that’s often misunderstood is that THIS WAS NOT JUST ABOUT FREE SPEECH, BUT ABOUT MAKING ACTUAL FALSE STATEMENTS. The problem is today’s unfettered opportunity to express opinion, whether or not the substance of what’s said is true or not. We need some boundaries.”

From the American Health Lawyers Association: IN THIS CASE, THE COURT FOUND THE SIX ALLEGEDLY DEFAMATORY STATEMENTS WERE NOT ACTIONABLE BECAUSE THE “SUBSTANCE, THE GIST, THE STING” OF PLAINTIFF’S VERSION FOR EACH OF THE STATEMENTS AS PROVIDED IN DEPOSITION AND DEFENDANT’S VERSION ESSENTIALLY CARRIED THE SAME MEANING, satisfied the standard for substantial truth, did not show a tendency to harm the plaintiff’s reputation and lower his estimation in the community, or were incapable of conveying a defamatory meaning (e.g., when a nurse told defendant that plaintiff was “a real tool”) based on “how an ordinary person understands the language used in the light of surrounding circumstances.”

From the Business Insurance Blog: THE MINNESOTA HIGH COURT SAID, FOR INSTANCE, THAT DR. MCKEE’S VERSION OF HIS COMMENT ABOUT THE INTENSIVE CARE UNIT WAS SUBSTANTIALLY SIMILAR TO MR. LAURION’S. “In other words, Dr. McKee’s account of what he said would produce the same effect on the mind of the reader,” the court said. “The minor inaccuracies of expression (in the statement) as compared to Dr. McKee’s version of what he said do not give rise to a genuine issue as to falsity.”

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