Luv2Heal has treated pediatric cancer patients for 70 years, since World War II. This well-regarded medical group practice has recruited a very famous physician and her staff to enhance its patient care. Dr. KidFriendly, the group’s current President, welcomes the new recruit, Dr. Hippocrates, and her radiation therapist with a lavish dinner. As the evening progresses, Dr. KidFriendly promises to give his new star and their team “everything they will need” to save more kids’ lives and boost their spirits. Dr. Hippocrates beams. She replies that she and her colleagues are honored to join Luv2Heal. They pledge to faithfully follow Luv2Heal’s team concept of “kid care first and only.”
The first six months go well. More sick children and their families or other caregivers flock to Luv2Heal’s medical office building at a nationally known university. Dr. Hippocrates practices innovative methods of diagnosing and treating rare forms of cancer that plague youngsters. Her chief radiation therapist works smoothly with Dr. KidFriendly and Luv2Heal’s business manager to purchase the latest technology in cancer care. Quality of life increases, length of stay slowly decreases. The University receives prestigious accreditation in radiation oncology.
But one day, Luv2Heal’s senior “patient care associate” receives an unsigned letter. It charges Dr. Hippocrates, Therapist LowDose and the Luv2Heal group with over-radiating the letter-writer’s son. This patient, whom the associate desperately tries to remember, apparently suffered repeated overdoses of radiation at Luv2Heal’s center. The anonymous complainant and her mother claim they questioned LowDose and other therapists about odd symptoms and subtle red marks the boy showed. LowDose allegedly assured the patient’s family, “We heal kids – we don’t hurt them. Sometimes our treatment has to go to another level – it’s different from what didn’t help your son in the past. But Luv2Heal always stays within state and university radiation control limits. Our staff has state-of-the art training and experience. Trust us.”
Unconvinced, the anonymous parent has gone to an attorney for a second opinion. Now the attorney has sent Dr. KidFriendly and Dr. Hippocrates a terse e-mail: meet with my client and me, or we go to the press – and the courts. The notorious plaintiff’s lawyer says that five other patients have displayed similar problems after receiving radiation treatment from Dr. Hippocrates and Luv2Heal. Panicked, Dr. KidFriendly calls you, the University’s counsel, and begs you to meet him immediately. He says that Dr. Hippocrates can’t be reached and is concerned that she is not taking this complaint seriously. Worse, the University’s Dean of Medical Affairs requests that Luv2Heal stop accepting new patients and agree to be evaluated by an outside pediatric oncology “monitor.” Then, the state’s radiation control board executive director happens to call Luv2Heal. He asks to speak directly with Dr. KidFriendly about “certain reports that Luv2Heal may be taking patient care over the line.” State Man also advises that a state health department inspector will “visit” Luv2Heal center’s with other regulators – tomorrow.
You represent the University and must provide advice to its officials. But also think about the issues from the perspectives of anonymous, upset patients and their attorneys. Why do they claim overzealous and unsafe acts have happened at the hands of Dr. Hippocrates & Luv2Heal? Who and what has legal liability? What legal theories might apply? Discuss specific legal theories. Develop an action plan to defend the University against the legal and PR challenges.