Category Archives: Health

Bad news and good news

Well, my sister has gotten bad news and good news.

And it’s the same news.

She has breast cancer. And it has spread to various spots. That’s the bad news.

She has breast cancer. And, according to her doctors, medical advances have given them many more tools to attack or manage this type of cancer than many others. That, they say, is the good news.

They’ve already launched her into a hormone therapy program, which I’ve just been reading about. At least one spot will likely call for radiation treatments.

But this avoids the physical toll of chemotherapy, which filled her late husband’s final time with the misery of terrible side effects. Bonnie is very clear that she doesn’t want to chase a few extra weeks of life in light of those side effects.

But knowing what she’s facing, and knowing that it’s far better than what we all feared, has raised her spirits.

Bonnie still has a long way to go, so keep your positive energy flowing her way.

And today we prepare for the arrival of Tropical Storm Darby.

Wish us all luck!

Why I’m a bit out of touch this week

I suppose that from the birds eye view, we’re all in the process of dying.

But my sister, Bonnie, suddenly finds herself on a faster track, and we’re all scrambling to keep up with the journey.

She’s been hospitalized for a week, and I’ll just say that the news so far weighs on all of us.

But in the digital age, she can keep in touch with faraway friends via text, email, Facebook, and phone, all from her hospital bed. That’s new in human history, and a good thing, I think.

This is Bonnie and I at a much earlier stage of our life journeys, ready to leave for Holy Nativity Church one long ago Sunday morning.

Ready for church.

Send Bonnie your prayers, if you are into such things.

Bonnie’s husband, Ray Stevens, died of lung cancer 9 years ago. Bonnie blogged about his life with cancer, and at least some of that blog survives via the Internet Archive. You might want to check it out.

Great investigative series on sexual abuse by doctors

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has just published a great investigative series, Doctors & Sex Abuse.

The lead article, “License to Betray“, appeared July 8.

Here’s the newspaper’s description of how the project got started.

As is often the case with investigative reporting, this series in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution grew out of other work. Reporter Danny Robbins was examining orders by the Georgia Composite Medical Board for his 2015 stories on prison medical care. In doing so, he saw orders allowing doctors to continue practicing after a finding that they had sexually violated patients.

He compiled those orders, discovering about 70 cases clearly involving sexual misconduct. And in about two-thirds of those cases, he was shocked to find, doctors either didn’t lose their licenses or were reinstated after being sanctioned. That included doctors who had repeatedly crossed the line with patients.

To see if Georgia was an exception, the AJC hired a legal researcher to study laws governing medical practices in every state, as reporters gathered studies and looked for cases around the country, compiled from news reports and other public sources. That work raised questions about the pervasiveness of doctor sexual misconduct. The research, and periodic scrutiny from other news organizations, also suggested that doctors were treated differently from other sexual offenders.

The series is a real eye-opener.

The state-by-state guide cites a single case in Hawaii. Robert McCormick Browne was a psychiatrist at Kamehameha Schools who is accused of molesting dozens of boys between 1947 and 1985. He committed suicide 25 years ago when the allegations became public.

The newspaper notes one “key fact” about Hawaii’s disciplinary system.

The state only keeps disciplinary information on its website for five years, one of the most limited periods in the nation.

Just another area in which Hawaii shortchanges the public when it comes to information access.

Medical Board takes 2-1/2 years to revoke license of controversial doctor

(Correction: SB2675, which was signed into law by Gov. Ige, allows licensing boards to act on disciplinary action taken in other states.)

On May 13, 2016, Dr. Daniel Susott finally had his license to practice medicine in Hawaii revoked when the decision by the Hawaii Medical Board was filed and posted. The action came 2-1/2 years after California authorities stripped Susott of his license to practice in that state, and two months after the Medical Board adopted its proposed order in the case and cited the need “to handle this matter expeditiously.”

Susott was one of those featured in a Honolulu Star-Advertiser series last year on issues surrounding the discipline of physicians.

The Star-Adveriser reported:

In November 2013 California revoked Susott’s license for gross incompetence, unprofessional conduct and dishonesty after investigators discovered he was recommending medical marijuana without adequately examining patients or taking medical histories, according to Medical Board of California documents. He sometimes approved medical marijuana from Hawaii, even though the patients were in California, the records said.

At one medical marijuana event in the Bay Area, Susott saw 254 patients over two days, checked hearts and lungs by looking at the patients and recommended marijuana in all cases, the records show.

After his California license was revoked and while a DCCA investigation was pending, Susott continued to practice on Oahu, and his prescribing activities attracted the attention of state narcotics enforcement authorities, according to court records.

In seeking court permission for a search warrant, an agent with the Department of Public Safety in July said he believed Susott had violated laws related to the prescribing of controlled substances, according to the court documents. The agent cited several cases from earlier this year.

DCCA acknowledged a pending licensing complaint against Susott but declined comment. His Hawaii license still is listed as valid.

Two hearings were held on Susott’s case by the Office of Administrative Hearings, part of the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, to consider a recommendation to revoke Susott’s Hawaii license. Despite a variety of issues brought to the state’s attention during its investigation, including the narcotics issues cited by the Star-Advertiser and allegations of abuse previously raised publicly, the recommendation was based solely on Susott’s failure to comply with a requirement that Hawaii regulators be notified promptly when a doctor is Hawaii is subject to discipline elsewhere.

The hearings, in December 2015 and early January 2016, provided Susott an opportunity to present evidence on his own behalf.

“i’m a good doctor and have been licensed for 35 years,” Susott told the hearing officer. “I’ve never a patient complaint.”

He blamed his legal woes in California to his open support for the legalization of marijuana.

“Advocacy of cannabis as medicine got me in trouble over there,” he said, according to the official recording of the hearing.

Susott said he had over 1,200 patients, mostly in California and some in Washington, and that he was still making recommendations for use of marijuana in other states.

Hearings Officer David Karlen asked: “Have you ever turned down or not recommended cannabis for a patient?”

Susott answered: “No, because I believe it is safer than aspirin, it hasn’t killed anybody in 10,000 years.”

Susott also told the board he had hired an attorney in California and expected his medical license to be reinstated within a month.

Susott said needed additional time to collect additional documents, letters from supporters, and to have his reinstatement considered in California. However, Susott failed to appear at at the second hearing and did not submit any of the documents or testimonials he had cited earlier.

In the end, the medical board voted unanimously to revoke Susott’s license to practice.

Susott seemed resigned, saying that he would continue to try to help people even after losing his license to practice medicine.

“I didn’t go to medical school to get a medical license,” he told the hearing officer in December.

To Susott’s detractors, that isn’t comforting news.

Meanwhile, two bills that would have allowed the medical board to take quick reciprocal action when a physician faces discipline in other states. However, a Senate bill died after being sent over to the House, and HB2335 died in conference.

So it appears that doctors who have lost their right to practice in other states will continue to have a long grace period practicing in Hawaii until the slow administrative process finally catches up with them.

Now there are four

Thank you to those who sent kind thoughts to Ms. Kili. The news, I’m afraid, is not good.

We got up yesterday morning and scheduled a trip to our regular vet, hoping to get some Kili some relief. She was the oldest of our five cats, had eaten almost nothing for several days, and had been having obvious difficulty breathing.

Earlier yesterday, in response to a comment on a post about Ms. Kili’s health issues, I wrote:

I’m terribly afraid that there are cascading issues piling up, one upon the other, and it’s going to be hard to stop the downhill slide.

That unfortunately proved to be exactly the case.

We came home late in the afternoon after unexpectedly having to say goodbye to her.

It wasn’t how we had hoped to be ending the day.

Such is life, I guess.

We lost her sister, Ms. Wally, in early July 2015. They were the last of that generation of our cats born in the 1990s.

And now there are just four remaining cats sharing our household.

The details aren’t pretty. We had been focusing on Kili’s congestion and sniffles, which seemed to be the focus of her breathing issues. But after our vet, Ann Sakamoto, examined Kili and took an x-ray, it turned out those were only symptoms of the bigger problem.

What she found was that Kili’s abdomen was full of fluid, which put pressure on her internal organs and made breathing difficult.

“There are several possible causes, and none of them is good,” Dr. Sakamoto said.

We discussed possible options, and realized none of them offered Kili any kind of quality of life. It was, unfortunately, time to face the inevitable. We said a tearful goodbye

We can say that she lived nearly 18-1/2 pampered years, most of that in Kaaawa with free access to the outside world, where she proved to be our most adept huntress. She had very few illnesses or injuries over the years, certainly none serious, and the end, when it came, was not marked by a drawn out period of suffering. She was a lucky cat.

Kili & WallyThis is a photo of Kill and Wally, just after we rescued them from Kahekili Highway back in January 1998. We called them the “auction cats,” because we had been on our way to an estate auction in town when they were literally dropped into our lives.

For the record, we had nine cats when 1999 began. Then we lost Leo (1999), Silverman (2013), Harry and Wally (2015), and now Kili.

And now, Kili and Wally in their prime (photo taken in 2002).