Friday, December 4, 2009

"America's Dumbest Doctors" by K. Patrick McDonald

Sometimes you're just in sync with the universe. As I was reading K. Patrick McDonald's America's Dumbest Doctors, a story appeared in my local newspaper entitled "Alleged victim testifies at surgeon's assault trial." The story related how a doctor became enraged when his date danced with an elderly man at an Italian restaurant where the couple had stopped for drinks. On the way home, the doctor pulled into a car wash parking lot where he proceeded to drag the woman from the car kicking her several times in the back. Police later found the woman at a nearby gas station where a 911 call had been placed from a pay phone. The woman did not press charges, but the detective assigned to the case charged the doctor with simple assault after reviewing pictures the woman had taken of bruises on her body. The doctor has since left town, but he continues to practice medicine in a nearby metropolitan area. His trial is currently underway.

When I first picked up this book, I thought, "Well this collection of stories is horrifying, but these things don't happen where I live." As the above newspaper story illustrates, I couldn't have been more wrong. McDonald at the onset of his work wonders why no one has ever written a comprehensive book on the bad behavior of doctors. As San Diego's first EMS supervisor, he was exposed to the misdeeds of a profession whose members consider themselves beyond reproach. What is truly frightening is that these rogue doctors violate a sacred trust. They are not scheming Wall Street tycoons or common thugs. They are who we turn to when things go wrong. We entrust our very being into their hands. It is an intimate connection that is severed by these doctors who willfully turn their backs on the Hippocratic Oath.

McDonald peppers his text with interesting tidbits. He states, "We have 100,000+ working physicians in this country within the IQ ranges of janitors and farmhands." The book's premise is supported through numerous examples of news headlines taken from across the country. Doctors are charged with murder, rape, drug trafficking, insurance fraud, child molestation, medical malpractice, sexual harassment, money laundering - the list goes on and on.

The misbehavior of a few doctors has consequences for the entire medical field. Medical mistakes and fraud raise insurance rates. One headline states, "Surgical mistakes cost insurance companies 1.5 billion dollars annually." Another relates, "4,600 American hospitals scam insurance plans." While doctors' mistreatment of nurses leave hospitals understaffed. A supporting headline states, "Abusive docs are driving out nurses." Another proclaims, "429,000 nurses a year are victims of assault. Too many are by doctors."

Readers will recognize famous cases such as the Texas MD who deliberately ran down her philandering physician-husband with her Mercedes in a hotel parking lot. Another being the doctor who blew up his New York City apartment building when he tampered with a gas line because he was angry with his estranged wife. Others are more obscure like the doctor dressed as Captain America who assaulted a woman at a bar with a burrito stuffed down his crotch. While an OB-GYN in California used secret cameras hidden in his shirt and in the air vent above the examination table to film teenage patients during breast and pelvic exams.

After reading this book, it is inevitable that you will never look at your physician the same way.

America's Dumbest Doctors
by K. Patrick McDonald is available for $14.99 at

A complimentary review copy was provided by K. Patrick McDonald.


  1. "Do I really have a right to laugh out loud at these appalling stories?"

    That was my question, as I sat stunned at not only the audacity of these people in the book, but the sheer numbers of them.

    I'd heard the author speak on the Coping With Caregiving radio show, and I must say I was certain he was exagerating. I could not have been more offbase. This book should be required reading in every medical ethics course in America. For our own safety, citizens ought to read it, but physicians should be FORCED to. I plan to carry my copy of this book to each medical appointment I ever go to. Wow.

  2. I actually like my doctor, but I rarely visit him. AFter reading this review, perhaps that's a good thing for more reasons than just my health.

    I already have a deep-rooted aversion to salespeople--must I loathe doctors as well?

    Your review makes the book reminiscent of a train wreck--you don't want to look, but you can't help yourself. It's simulatneously horrifying and mesmerizing.

  3. I'm a relatively new graduate fortunate enough to have been hired last year by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Here at Mayo, I'd guess very little of these kinds of shenanigans go on. I suspect much of the misbehavior occurs at less-regulated institutions, where the majority of MDs on staff are contract, and not directly employed.

    That said, my years in med school offered considerable proof that, yes, wackos in la coats are hardly a rare commodity, and some "off-campus" behavior borders insanity.

    In spite of my love for what we doctors do, I found myself buying the book, reluctantly, and relating stories from it to my friends. Our consensus is, "Well, there but for the grace of Buddha . . . ."