Doctor or Professional Witness?

“I’ve been wounded, jaded, loved and hated,” words from the song, God’s Will, by Martina McBride, kept playing over and over in my mind while we sat in the courtroom listening to the hospital’s expert witness. Borderline retarded. While I knew that Dr. C. was going to make this statement since we had reviewed the documentation, it was difficult to hear it out loud. After all, I was college-educated and had worked for two Fortune 100 companies, climbing the corporate ladder quickly and directing the activities of a department.

I found it hard to believe that Dr. C. was talking about me. I didn’t go to an Ivy League college; however, I excelled in college making great grades, served as editor of the campus newspaper and worked 20+ hours a week for the college’s Public Relations office. The department was always without a Public Relations Director and several students, including me, kept the office running. It was that experience that helped prepare me for a career in the real world. I also had my IQ tested by the neuro-psychologist who our attorney hired to represent us in court. While Dr. C. (who appears in court regularly as an expert witness) testified that I was borderline retarded; our neuro-psychologist (who normally doesn’t represent patients in court, he actually works with patients on a regular basis) reported that I was above average IQ. Two doctors, two very different medical opinions, too many lies.

Following Dr. C.’s lengthy testimony of lies and deceptions, the next day and a half was spent listening to the neurologist who spent 40 minutes with my husband and me (see Damaged Goods Posted on March 11, 2011 ) and never laid a hand on me — not my neck, swollen shoulder, nor did he conduct the typical neurological exam that most doctors perform when they see a patient. This doctor, who we called Dr. K. in polite company, was a professional expert witness. Our attorney uncovered financial information regarding the doctor, which explained that all he did was testify for either hospitals or injured persons. In the past 10 years, he had been on the witness stand more than any other neurologist in the surrounding area. He no longer had an active practice or saw patients. Our attorney talked to another injured person who went to Dr. K. for an independent medical exam. She indicated that when she saw him, it was in his home with his wife present and a multitude of cats were all over the office. She, like me, only saw him for 40 minutes.

Below is what occurred during my appointment with Dr. K.:

My husband and I were picked up at 6:30 a.m. by the car service. My attorney advised my husband to attend the appointment after all to observe how I was treated. We arrived at the expert witness’s office ahead of schedule and entered a waiting room with several patients, but no office staff. It didn’t feel as a professional medical building or office should; however, a few minutes later, a group of students left the office and the doctor walked out and announced my name. He immediately began asking questions about my condition prior to the surgery. At one point, he stated, “I don’t want this to turn into a he said, she said.” We were a bit taken back since I was in the process of trying to explain my condition. He asked questions, but didn’t bother to wait for a response. He kept interrupting me and answered many of the questions for me — not allowing me to respond properly. He didn’t know I had two doctors at Johns Hopkins (as stated in the package of medical information he received); however, he claimed he was familiar with the case.

My husband indicated to the doctor that I oftentimes have difficulty expressing myself of choosing my words. He also added in that since I was a writer that this was critical. The ‘expert witness’ then asked me a series of obvious questions –who is the President of the United States, how do you spell ‘world,’ spell it backwards and then asked me to remember three things and within a few minutes later asked me to recall those three items. He then asked about the surgery and what I was told and what happened when I woke up in recovery. He wouldn’t let me explain anything, nor did he want to hear about my ongoing complaints and concerns.

Next, he asked me to walk down the hall with my cane about 10 feet and then turn around and walk back. He then led us into a room and asked me to remove my clothing. Fortunately, my husband was with me, and was able to assist as a chaperone. I often wonder who would have done this since there was no office staff. The doctor, later came into the room and did reflex and some strength testing. He looked at my spine, but never touched my neck. He didn’t do pinprick testing for numbness. It was the least evaluating neurological exam I had experienced, but at the same time the most invasive since I was wearing a paper gown. He told me to get dressed and left the room. Once I was dressed, my husband and I went back into his office and he dismissed us. From the moment we were dropped off at the front door until the time we got back into the car took only 40 minutes and included the examination. It also included the doctor’s idle chit-chat about his family.

Within that 40 minutes, some of that time was spent walking in and out of the office building, taking an elevator to and from the office, sitting in the waiting room and removing and putting on my clothes. Imagine how much time it requires me, or anyone with a spinal cord injury or disability, to do these activities and how little time Dr. K. actually spent with my husband and me.

Dr. K. spent an unusually long time discussing his education and experience with the hospital’s attorney leading him during the testimony. For some reason the defense felt that his background was something to be proud of and that sharing it would score more points with the jury. During his testimony Dr. K. often referred to the 40 page report he submitted following my exam. We determined his report was equal to one page per minute of the time that he spent with my husband and me. That was something that we chuckled about prior to the court case since we thought Dr. K. must have created some type of form to make his 500+ expert reports run smoothly and not require much time on his part.

While on the witness stand, Dr. K. told jurors that I must have had another disc problem and that it was removing that problem disc that created the spinal cord injury — not Dr. Liar slamming the mallet into the spacer. Dr. K. kept mentioning that when he examined me that he didn’t notice anything wrong with me. He told the jurors that I walked without a cane down a hallway– and that there was nothing wrong with my ambulating or gait. In fact, he said he couldn’t remember if I even had a cane. That was the same cane that he asked me about since my cane was pink and had a unique tip that provides more support when walking and stands up on its own. He had mentioned that it was a more helpful type of cane than either the four-prong or the single-tip canes that most people use and he wanted to know where I had gotten it.

During cross-examination, our attorney asked Dr. K. why his story of the medical exam differed from the one that my husband and I had told. He also asked about being a professional expert witness and did get him to admit that he no longer sees patients, but he does keep current with the medical community. Although when asked about being a professional witness and how many times he testifies and his yearly income, Dr. K. hesitated. It was then that the whining defense attorney objected and the judge said that the doctor didn’t need to answer those questions. That they weren’t relevant.

The following day would be one of utmost importance. Dr. Liar would take the stand. Our attorneys were ready, but my husband and I were more curious as to what he was going to say. He had told so many lies and dug such a deep hole during discovery and during his deposition that we were certain that the jury would see that he was lying.

While we were involved in the court case, I took vacation time from work. I was working part-time, but was still feeling the pressure of producing full-time results. My Cervical Dystonia was getting worse and holding my head up was becoming a chore. Once the court case was over I would continue physical and mental therapy. I found myself looking forward to a normal routine. Physical therapy was physically challenging; mental therapy was mentally challenging. However, I felt that I needed both desperately. My mental therapist had attended much of the court case, always checking in to see how I was doing. Having support in the court room meant so much. These people knew me and without question knew the lies that were being told. It felt good to be surrounded by my husband,  parents, best friend, and therapist. However, it was also somewhat embarrassing knowing that they too were hearing all the lies. In fact, watching all of these people lie was rather embarrassing — how could they sit on the witness stand and get paid to lie? In fact, expert witnesses can make as much as $12,000+ per case.

A good friend wrote to me while I have been writing the blog stating that since retirement he has been working at the local Sheriff’s office and had been observing court cases. When we worked together, he was located in the South, at a location I would often visit for my job. During the years we became good friends and have maintained our friendship. I updated him on my injury during the past few years, but he has also been kind enough to follow my story via the blog. He wrote me a very supportive message — one that made me laugh out loud, but it also made me think. He said:

“It’s not about right and wrong it’s about winning and losing. The more money you have the better chance you have winning in court. I sure hope you beat the son of a bitch.”

His message was correct — the court case wasn’t about whether Dr. Liar had or had not done anything wrong. It was about who was going to win and who would lose. Dr. Liar and the hospital were doing all that they could to win even when it meant misleading the jurors, themselves and anyone else who would listen. However, what the next day would bring was far worse and very, very sad. I kept thinking that it’s not whether you win or lose — it’s how you play the game — or was it?

©My Unplanned Life and www.shakinguplife.wordpress.com, 2011.

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About mswd

I am an individual living with a spinal cord injury. How the injury occurred, how I found out how severe my injury was and how my planned life suddenly became 'unplanned' is included in this blog. Also included is how the injury has tested my family and me. I believe you will discover it has been both a mentally and physically challenging ordeal and I learned a few lessons along the way. While I am still defining my life’s purpose since the injury, I have uncovered those who are injured, live with pain or have other obstacles to navigate are never able to escape. However, come with me as I explore ways to improve my life, learn to live with multiple neurological conditions, educate others and look for the silver lining. I believe with a little willpower, my caring family and God's guidance I will learn to forgive, hopefully forget how I was treated and dismissed by a doctor and uncover life's new purpose. I pray for painfree days and answers to questions that keep swirling through my mind. I also pray for a cure for neurological conditions and for the doctors to treat their patients with respect. Welcome to my journey. I would love to hear about yours!
This entry was posted in Court, Depression, Disability, Dr. Liar, Medical Malpractice, Pain, Self Discovery, Spinal Cord Injury and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Doctor or Professional Witness?

  1. Judith Williams says:

    M.D. – mentally deficient!

  2. Judith Williams says:

    Win or lose – no one remembers who comes in second place. Give him hell!

    • mswd says:

      Many thanks Judy — I am sitting here finishing up the posting about Dr. Liar’s testimony and I still can’t believe all that he said and all that happened. It’s a sad story, but it’s helping getting it out in the open. I appreciate your support and for reading the blog. It means more than you know. Hoping all is well and that you and your family weren’t affected by the tornado. Thanks again for your kind works!

  3. Lori says:

    Hi Marsha,
    I began reading about your unplanned lifestory when my sister, Tina shared it with me. I am so moved by your story and compelled to share with you how it is a continuing inspiration to me and the man in my life. Troy and I can relate to what you have been through in so many ways and on so many levels… I just want to thank you and encourage you any way that I possibly can!
    Troy’s ongoing challenge also involves an ‘unplanned’, unwarranted, loss …
    He was unlawfully terminated from a twenty-year career in law enforcement that he loved, was very successful at and was passionate about; all because he stood up for the truth, for himself and what is right! Our faith and hope in the justice system is not completely crushed because he does have a federal lawsuit (pending) but sometimes the challenges seem futile and endless.
    Yet, his loss, however painful and challenging (he cannot get another job even as a janitor at the local high school and stands to lose his home, retirement, etc) is still not even close to what you have experienced!
    I have shared your story with him and we have been following it and praying for you.
    We do believe that God has a bigger and greater plan for all us. Sometimes it just takes all of sharing and helping each other get through it to find out exactly what it is!
    Our prayers for strength, peace and health to you and your family,
    Lori and Troy

    • mswd says:

      Lori and Troy ~ thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful message. I really appreciate you taking the time to read the blog as well as send a message especially since you know how and what it’s like going through a nightmare like this. I am so sorry to hear about the challenge with Troy losing his job. It comes as such a shock to every fiber of your being. And, sadly, it takes years to find yourself again. Also, the court case slows down the healing process (as you mentioned the futile and endless challenges). Tell Troy to remember that no one can take his past accomplishments away from him — they will always be his and that he needs to keep those in mind. And, he must always remember that doing the right thing can and is difficult, but in the end it’s what should be done and he will be able to look at himself in he mirror knowing he told the truth. Remain steadfast in your faith, your relationship with each other and laugh when you can, cry when you need to and focus on the good things in your life. Also, I will send you my telephone number via Facebook if either you or Troy would like to talk. Together we will make it through! I will be thinking and praying for the both of you! God is blessing you! Thank you again for your message. Love to you both.

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