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Thursday, January 31, 2008

DOCTOR IDIOT, MEET PATIENT IDIOT

I see this story as proof that even idiots can graduate medical school, specifically Dr. Adam Hansen, who was, until last December, the chief resident of general surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. It seems that Doctor Idiot was performing gall bladder surgery on 37 year old Sean Dubowik, and as Doctor Idiot was about to insert a catheter he couldn’t help but notice that Sean had a rather bold tattoo on his penis; the words “Hot Rod”. The doctor was so entertained by this unusual physical adornment that he whipped out his cell phone – which was, presumably, sterilized – and snapped a quick photo. Post-op, in the locker room, Doc Hansen showed this photo to several of his colleges, presumably for their amusement and edification. It’s the same reason doctors keep X-rays of various objects found stuck in rectums and virginals. The only difference is that an X-ray of a bottle of Jack Daniels floating in a ‘pubic symphysis’ has no identifying details on it other than the bottler’s label, whereas there are so few tattooed penises in this world that even a low quality cell phone image of one of them could easily be traced back to its owner, and that is a clear violation of HIPPA
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One of the primary purposes of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 2004 is to make it an actual federal offense for anybody to release any information about any patient without their written consent. The Mayo Clinic boasts they have over 100 policies protecting a patient’s privacy. And according to HIPPA consent for the release of information to non-staff (i.e., the public) must be hand written, printed in block letters, and explicitly list the information to be released, and authorizing the spokesperson and/or physician by name, and any partners in their medical practice. These restrictions cover doctors, nurses, pharmacists, technicians, the clerk who prepares your bill and the accountant from your insurance company who rejects payment, as well as all of the office staff for those folks and all their assistants, the hospital housekeepers, cooks, crooks and bottle washers. Should you get caught violating a HIPPA privacy restriction you can find yourself talking to a Federal Prosecutor. And the Mayo Clinic claims they spend “… millions of dollars each year to comply with and exceed government requirements”.
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All of which made it a big deal when one of Doctor Idiot’s colleges dropped a dime on him and called The Arizona Republic newspaper and told them about the impromptu photo op. (Do you think it could have been a scrub nurse, or maybe a housekeeper?) And when the paper called the hospital to confirm the tip, the administration had a little talk with Doctor Idiot. And Doctor Idiot then called his tattooed patient, Mr. Dubowik, who shall henceforth be known as Patient Idiot.
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The term “idiot” as used here is not intended as a derogative definition but, like the term “genius”, as an adjective to describe a certain level of achievement. One man or woman can, at various times in their lives be either one or both. The first human to apply paint on purpose to a cave wall at Lascaux, France, 16,000 years ago, was a genius. And probably the very next day the very same genius probably tried use his new invention as a food additive, which may be why his or her name has been lost to history.
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Sean Dubowik is the owner and operator of the Centerfolds Cabaret and Sports Fever Bar at 2031 West Peoria Avenue in Phoenix. It is described as a “topless bar”, or a strip club, where for a $5.00 cover charge and an over priced beer you can enjoy nude and semi nude female dancers on stage, on your tabletop or “in private” (extras are always extra). The club also features a “full kitchen”, but last summer the board of health issued them 12 critical violations, so it is probably safe to assume nobody goes there for the fine cuisine. Sean says he acquired his tattooed penis to win a $1,000 bet, and because at the time he was drunk as hell. And that anecdote, plus his choice of business, probably tells you just about all you need to know about The Patient Idiot.
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When Doctor Idiot called Patient Idiot and confessed about the photo shoot I cannot believe that Patient Idiot was surprised. You have a tattoo on your tummy to draw attention to your abs. You get a heart imprinted on your chest to draw the eye to your tits. And a tattoo on your penis is almost self explanatory. So Patient Idiot might have been embarrassed but he could not have been surprised. And yet he claims to have felt “betrayed, violated and disgusted.” It sounds to me as if someone is laying the foundation for a lawsuit. But really, is a jury going to believe that a man who makes his living paying naked women to hitch their heels behind their ears for the entertainment of strangers, would be embarrassed by a grainy photo of his own flaccid penis? I don’t think so. But I do smell a mid five figure out of court settlement coming from the Doctor Idiot’s malpractice insurance company.
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There will be ramifications, so to speak. Doctor Idiot is no longer working at the Mayo Clinic, but it is not clear if he was fired, suspended or decided to go into photography. As Chic Older, from the Arizona Medical Association, put it, “HIPPA is not even the point. Many ethical boundaries were crossed. He just made a stupid error in judgment.” And the truth is that no one in Arizona has ever been charged with violating patient privacy under the HIPPA laws, and besides, such a “crime” would be a mere misdemeanor, a medical traffic ticket .
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In other words, Doctor Idiots do this kind of stupid thing a lot more often than the public is aware of. And the only reason this one made the papers is because of the presence of a tattooed penis. Which brings us back to the Patient Idiot…He had a tattoo needle used on his penis! What an idiot!
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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

SIMPLE SIMON MEETS LARRY HART

I am the proud father of a six month old kitten named Simon. Okay, I’m not his real daddy, and I didn’t name him, but I am the human (along with my wife) responsible for feeding and caring for the small brain and great big eyes and constant energy that is our Simon. I take this responsibility seriously. It was I who taught Simon the invaluable lesson about open flames when both of his eyebrows were singed off (they grew back enormously long and oddly shaped). But thanks to my inattention Simon now knows to give the fireplace a wide berth. My wife spotted Simon chewing on an audio cassette of Stephen King’s “Dark Tower”, abandoned years ago on a dusty bookshelf, and pulled two feet of audio tape out of his little gullet. But the next morning it was I who pulled another 12 feet of poop covered tape out of his ass. Simon now knows to insist we examine every aspect of our lives in terms of what Simon might eat, poke, scratch, chew, shed on or chase. And part of that responsibility is teaching Simon that he has a name.
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Years ago I worked with Harry Anderson, who was then staring in the TV show “Night Court”. Harry was in my living room every Thursday night, so of course I knew who he was. Still, when I first met him, Harry shook my hand and introduced himself. It was typical of Harry, who was a gentle, shy and polite man. But it made me think; having a name is a little odd, and it stems not from the recognition of “self”, but the recognition of “others”. You don’t require a name. It is others who don’t know who you are, and they require you have a label. And it is not until you realize this “other” factor that you achieve the “age of reason”.
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Which raised the question; how do you teach a “dumb animal” that he has a name? Do they come when you call them? That may simply mean they associate the sound that we call a “name” with food or a reward. A name is a much more complicated concept than that. I chose the rhyme/song approach to teach that concept. Whenever I pick up Simon for a bonding moment, as I pet him, I repeat the nursery rhyme, “Simple Simon”. We all know it but did you ever hear all of the verses? The details vary, as they do with any oral tradition (that is why writing was invented), but basically this is how it goes;
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Simple Simon met a pie man going to the fair.
Said Simple Simon to the pie man, “Let me taste your ware”.
Said the pie man to Simple Simon, “Let me see your penny.”
Said Simple Simon, to the pie man, “Sir, I have not any.”
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Simple Simon went a-fishing, for to catch a whale.
All the water he had got was in his mother’s pail.
Simple Simon went to look, if plums grew on a thistle;
he pricked his fingers very much, which made poor Simon whistle.
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He went to catch a dickey bird,
and thought he could not fail,
because be had a little salt to put upon its tail.
He went for water with a sieve,
but soon it all fell through,
and now poor Simple Simon bids you all “Adieu”.
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Obviously the first stanza records the joint invention of capitalism and fast food, some time in the early middle ages, and a dickey bird is any small bird. But on a more fundamental level the poem records the creation of a Mother Goose stock character, the buffoon “Simple Simon”, who would eventually (1930) be the lead character in the Rogers & Hart musical, “Simon Says”, which produced the melancholy ballad, “Ten Cents A Dance”, containing a typical Lorenz "Larry" Hart internal rhyme; “Fighters and sailors and bowlegged tailors can pay for their ticket and rent me. Butchers and barbers and rats from the harbors are sweethearts my good luck has sent me…Sometimes I think I’ve found my hero, but it’s a queer romance. All you need is a ticket. Come on, big boy, ten cents a dance.”
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And it occurs to me that Larry Hart, that diminutive and tragically flawed genius, could have written the original “Simple Simon” had he lived in 12th century Europe, rather than 20th century New York. Of course, when Larry was first presented with the idea of a musical based upon the American West, he complained, “I can’t write about cows.” And that is why it was Rogers and Hammerstein who wrote “Oklahoma”, and not Rogers and Hart. But, perhaps Larry would have chosen a different melue for Simon; rather than a story about a baker and an idiot, perhaps for the last 700 years children would have memorized the story of a baker and Sleepy Simon, or Sexy Simon, or Sneaky Simon. And that would have been a different world.
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The point is that Simon the kitten has no idea who Simple Simon is, nor even the vaguest curiosity. Cats do not construct a narrative out of life. Life to them is not sad, it is not melancholy, and it does not require a punch line or stock characters. It is not a nursery rhyme nor a Broadway musical nor even a television mini-series. If life were any of those things we humans would not require the invention of those things. And what a tumultous world that would be. If you know anybody who is a drama queen or king, you know what I mean.
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From a cat’s perspective, life is crushingly simple. Simon does not care if he has a name or not. He is indifferent. I am the one concerned with the name game, me and my wife and Harry Anderson and Larry Hart. And darn it, Simon is going to learn his name. Is it a waste of time? Well, as Einstien says, time is bent. And a story of the universe with a begining, a middle and an end is an illusion, a soap opera written to an outline prepared by a producer with an agenda that has almost nothing to do with the plot line. In other words, God may have all the answers but what the hell makes you think knowing the answers would do you any good? At least that's how it must look to Simon's little kitty cat eyes.
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