Reed: Please Stop This Craziness, Dr. Walls

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This article is part of The Cancer Letter's How Medical Devices Do Harm series.

Reed: Please Stop This Craziness, Dr. Walls

The text of Amy Reed’s Nov. 13 letter to Ron Walls, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, follows. Reed is an assistant professor of anesthesia and critical care medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Dear Dr. Walls,

Hello. My name is Amy Reed. Last week I had surgery at BWH by an excellent surgeon who works at your hospital. The surgery, as I’m sure you know, went very well and we were able to return home to our family mid-week.

Your hospital has some of the best doctors in their fields. Between visits to my oncologist, who we have a wonderful relationship with, specialists and sub-specialists, including surgeons, who have now operated on me twice, I can’t begin to count the number of times we have pulled up Francis Street to the front of BWH.

So, I was all the more distressed by the letter we received the week before my surgery, stating that there were concerns regarding my husband’s presence in BWH and that there were to be searches, a security escort, and most concerning of all, a reminder that the hospital was private property, and should these demands not be satisfied by my husband that he would be forced to leave the hospital.

My husband has been nothing but a patient advocate, albeit a very vocal one, since my diagnosis in 2013. Cancer made worse by physicians in BWH, by a practice, that we brought to the attention of BWH administration in December of 2013.

At the meeting we were told that my husband “should take a break from working for awhile” and that the morcellation that spread my cancer (as another woman lay dying from her cancer spread the same exact way in BWH) “was not up for discussion.”

I find it inconsistent that despite dozens of visits to BWH, my husband’s letters to the administration, that are indeed numerous spread over two years, were suddenly deemed threatening to the point of requiring security measures two days after we filed a lawsuit against BWH?

It’s also not unnoticed that not a single one of our caring physicians, including the psychologist who works with the newly diagnosed cancer patients, were consulted in regards to such a threat?

Finally, there were the haphazard searches, half-hearted security escort and lack of notification of the people who actually would have been in harms way, had a security threat actually existed. I would actually be concerned at the lack of protection that you offered to your staff, if indeed that was the objective, instead of intimidation, which I think it is.

I have sarcoma. It’s a bad cancer, and your hospital made it worse, even after your doctors spread it in another woman before me and she lay dying as I had my surgery. The administration’s handling of the morcellator situation was tragic, retaliatory, and basically was recapitulated in the same corporate bullying that we were subjected to last week.

And the Suffolk County Court judge who heard this case last Tuesday agreed with us.

So please stop this craziness. There have never been threats made against anyone at BWH. Ever. But perhaps there have been things said that you haven’t liked to hear, things that make people feel badly because they are being told they are not doing the right things.

That does not make threatening. Rather, threatening is an academic hospital using its name and legal power to intimidate patients and their families.

Do you know what it’s like to have a hospital administration threaten your health care proxy with being forced out of the hospital, when you are six hours from home and family, and could potentially be left without anyone to speak for you in person, because of some arbitrary hospital rules that have been made up and apply only to them?

Threatening? Yes. Terrifying. You should be ashamed of yourselves for penalizing patients and their families for speaking up. For saying something’s wrong. For saying that there was a real patient safety issue, and when no one listened, called them on it.

And if my husband hadn’t spoken up again, got legal counsel, wrote more letters, we would not have had respite against the injustices we were faced with.

But he did, unlike so many other patients who, at the very least, would have been dealing with a major surgery in their loved one, most likely would have said nothing, stressed out all the more. How many patients and families have you subjected to this threatening treatment in the past?

Shame on you Dr. Walls. My husband should receive accolades from BWH, not threats.


Amy J. Reed MD PhD

Morcellated uLMS 2013

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