Physician Stories

Dr. Malcolm Ing Shares His Story.

A few years ago, I was called to an O'ahu hospital's Emergency Room. Waiting for me was a 2-year old little girl from the Big Island; she & her mother had made the long, arduous journey to O'ahu. The little girl had suffered an eye injury from a plastic toy that morning; the toy had fully penetrated her eye. The mother & daughter had initially visited their local Emergency Room on the Big Island; they were told that there would not even be an attempt made to repair her eye due to there being no ophthalmic specialist on island. It was then that the mother made the heart-wrenching decision to travel for over 8 hours with her injured toddler to get her to a specialist. After 5 hours of intensive surgery, I was able to save this little 2-year old girl's eye, but unfortunately, I was not able to save her vision. One can only wonder if she had had access to a specialist on the Big Island, would her vision have been saved? We will never know for certain, and it seems probable that had there been an ophthalmic specialist readily available on the Big Island, this little girl would have full vision today.

Dr. Ing is a Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii. He is a Charter Member of the American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology, served as an examiner for the American Board of Ophthalmology, and is the author of over 80 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals. He has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Dr. Ing is a member of the American Ophthalmological Society and has been named by his peers in the Best Doctors in America. He has maintained a lifelong interest in the prevention of eye disease by dietary and nutritional supplements. Dr. Ing was motivated by his Chinese physician father, who informed him as a youngster that in the ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine, the practitioners were paid by their patients to keep them well, rather than merely treating them when they were afflicted by disease.

Malcolm Ing, M.D.

Physicians are not just leaving the state of Hawaii.

How could our entire health care system become so toxic that the ones who were so passionate about caring for you have had to leave to survive themselves? Tort reform must go through in Hawaii to spare your doctors mental health and to keep them by your side doing what they do best.

A malpractice suit takes about 7 years to complete. That is 2500 sleepless nights alternately filled with anger, grief, self doubt, loss of self esteem, and days filled with extra paper work, depositions, and a sequence of events that makes physicians feel like criminals, even if we did nothing wrong and we win the case. Physicians have no time between the office, hospital, running their business and the lawyers to seek physician directed support systems even if there were any. The toll is immense. In an article written by Dr. Tom Gross he stated and I quote “that his colleague had learned that by age 45, 20% or one in five, of his medical school classmates were dead. He compared that to his high school class and his college class, in which fewer than 3 percent had died. He also discovered that the median life span of a physician is 58 years." In other words, half of American physicians make it to 58 years old the other half do not.

Doctors commit suicide twice as often as the normal population. Dr. Louise Andrew reported "On average the United States loses the equivalent of at least one entire medical school class to suicide." What you are seeing now is a flight of physicians moving to areas of tort reform, or lower stress communities, or bailing out into hammering nails in order to get their self-respect back.

I have retired from medicine. It was the saddest day of my life but I do not regret it. The least stressful part of medicine was the part I loved the best. It is what you see as the most stressful from the sitcoms, reversing your auntie’s heart attack, keeping your cousin alive after the deadly car accident, sewing up your son's head laceration, calming your fears when your baby has a high fever, just doing my job. However, I left because of the most stressful part to me, a patient who admitted, after the fact, his intention to sue the hospital before he entered the hospital. There was no wrongdoing by the unsuspecting physician, me, but he tried anyway and I realized the tide had turned. A higher proportion of you saw me as a criminal with a deep pocket rather than as your savior. To those of you I comforted, healed and gave a part of myself to, I am sorry I left you but I had to, to survive. Don't let your other physicians leave, pass tort reform.

Sharon Lowrie, M.D.

Patient Stories

I nearly died from lack of access to medical care as a tourist on the Big Island. Recently, I flew from my home in Washington State to testify at your State legislature, at my own expense, supporting medical tort reform. Just before I was called to testify, the Senate Health Chair, David Ige and committee member, Senator Roslyn Baker left the room. I had very important things to say and it was a huge slap in the face to have them walk out. They patiently listened to the lawyers, why couldn’t they listen to me. There was a doctor who flew in from Texas who was very informative, that they walked out on as well. Following testimony Senator Ige deferred the bill, without allowing the committee members to vote. There were 4 members for the bill and only 2 against it. This is not democracy!

Doug Suhm

Almost 2 years ago, on a Friday night, an ER from one of the smaller hospitals paged my husband Paul. A patient had arrived in cardiac arrest. He was postoperative from heart surgery and was bleeding into his chest. There were no other cardiac surgeons available at that time.

The patient's cardiac surgeon was already performing surgery on another emergency surgery at Queens Hospital. My husband is trained and certified to perform cardiac surgery, but mainly specializes in lung and esophageal cancers, which is considered to be non-cardiac thoracic surgery. He hasn't done cardiac surgery for many years.

Trained as an attorney myself, I advised him that if there were any complications, the patient's family could sue us personally and take away everything we have worked for our entire lives, but he went in anyway because we knew otherwise the guy had no chance. I worried for the next five hours until I heard from him. The stress from being called upon to operate under these circumstances is a great burden as our malpractice insurance will not cover something we do not have privileges to do, however Paul thought he could stabilize the patient until the patient's surgeon was available, giving him a chance to stay alive.

Long story short, the patient coded in the ER while Paul was there, he cracked open the patient's chest in the ER and hand pumped him. They called an ambulance, Paul rode with him, hand in his chest, pumping the whole way over to Queens until he was wheeled into the OR and Paul and the patient's cardiac surgeon did the repair. The patient lived.

With regard to the argument the trial layers are making that there is an increase in doctors here, so there doesn't need to be reform, I bet there is not enough of an increase of physicians in the high-risk categories that matter most in an emergency.

Catherine Morris, Kaneohe
Wife of Dr. Paul Morris