Dear Glodean White: Thank you for your comment. You are right: a mother’s wisdom and I hear you clearly. Hate is too strong a word, and it is not accurate. As a doctor, I always want to encourage people and give them information they can use. Both pathology and radiology are integral to that and medicine wouldn’t work without them. What was “frustrating” was to run a test and not be able to give the patient a direct answer. I stand corrected, and that thought will be addressed.
On with the story:
Why, if the authorities (and the West family and their lawyers) knew the facts all along, were inaccurate and frankly false statements occurring in the press? From where was the meanness coming? And, more importantly, who was behind it and what was their motive?
We all sensed that Donda West did not have to die, but in the end, we were denied closure, and she was denied justice, because the theories surrounding her death did not match the facts. The authorities responded to the media. The media had them looking in the wrong place. And unfortunately, when the media lost interest, the truth died too. Donda West, as a result, never got her day in court. Donda West never got justice.
Stephan Scoggins, Donda West’s nephew and her primary caregiver at the time, was a likely candidate figure2.
Unbeknownst to me or my staff, he had reported to the coroner’s investigator that he had “received a telephone call on the day of surgery from the decedent’s (Donda West) friend who was concerned that she (Ms West) was not waking up soon enough after surgery, so he responded to the surgery center”.
He may, in fact, have received a call from any number of family members who were present in the waiting room, but not for that reason. We were waiting for the nurse, Mr. Scoggins, to arrive so that the patient could be discharged to the person who was responsible for her post-operative care. That person was Stephan Scoggins.
I was told by the woman with Donda, who introduced herself as her sister, Ms Roberson, and my staff, that Mr. Scoggins was late because he was getting equipment and preparing Dr. West’s bedroom for her recovery. That, supposedly, was why he was late in picking her up. (The operative word here is “supposedly”, because we- my office staff and the staff of Brentwood Surgery Center, along with the Coroner, the nursing board, the Medical Board, and the City Attorney- will learn later that he didn’t do any of that. He did not get the equipment, including monitors, a bed, wheelchair, and supplies that he promised he would, nor was any of that waiting at Dr. West’s home when they arrived there post-operatively.) He had consented, and contracted, to care for her post-operatively, and had mislead the patient, the doctor, the staff at Brentwood Surgery Center, and the authorities (along with the press) as to what had transpired.
Nonetheless, do not judge him too harshly (at least not yet). His is a natural human response to a tragedy. Most humans initially, look to blame someone else. What three-year-old has not pointed the finger at a sibling when a parent asked “who broke the glass”?
Furthermore, our purpose here is not to judge what someone did or did not do; our purpose is to choose who we want to be in response to what they did. I choose to be loving. My goal is merely to to present the facts, and own them, so that my choice is based in reality.
According to Diana and Nubia, two of the women who went home with Donda West following her surgery, “Dr. West argued with her nephew that night concerning his failure to secure those things”. What is significant is that the primary post-operative caregiver was negligent in his responsibilities and lied to the Coroner’s investigator about it. The question is why? Why did he have to lie? And more importantly, why was he never called-out on it (by the authorities or the press)?
It is our policy to discharge patients to their caregivers so that post-operative orders can be given directly to those people responsible for the patient’s post-operative care. The problem with Mr. Scoggins’ statement is that one, it is not true; and two, it is a bit too casual. Stephan Scoggins, PhD. was not a concerned bystander in this matter. He is very much an active participant. It was Mr. Scoggins who convinced his aunt that he would take care of her post-operatively and therefore did not need an aftercare facility; and it was Mr. Scoggins who convinced his aunt to sign an advanced directive giving him power of attorney over her affairs in the event she could not direct her own care.
This, as was my duty, I shared with the coroner and his investigators. It is public record. I will not comment on confidential conversations between me and Donda West. Nor will I comment on the particulars of her care. That belongs under the umbrella of doctor-patient privilege and should stay there.
I will, however, comment on inaccuracies and false statements made in the public record, as is my duty. According to Robin Hollis, Senior Investigator with the Medical Board of California, and confirmed by my attorney, Thomas Byrne, I am required by law to ensure that accurate and truthful information is given to the Coroner.
Mr. Scoggins did finally arrive at the surgery center around 7:15 p.m. dressed in a short white lab coat, which he tugged at as he stood erect in front of me in the waiting room. “I’m Dr. Scoggins” he announced.
“Great to meet you” I said.
“I’ll be taking care of Donda”. We then walked a few steps to the receptionist’s counter, I opened her chart, and we began to discuss her post-operative care. “I want to apologize for my family” he offered quietly. “They can be a little crazy”.
“Oh…they’re fine” I said. “They’re just concerned. They don’t really know what’s going on; they’re kind of in the dark. They’ve been here all day and just getting a bit antsy; they’ve not been a problem”.
Then Mr. Scoggins said the weirdest thing: “Donda and I,” he began, “are the backbone of this family, and I didn’t want you to get the wrong idea”.
I hadn’t gotten the wrong idea -at least I didn’t think so. I didn’t care that he and Donda were the backbone of the family, or that he was somehow ashamed of his relatives. I just wanted a seamless transfer of my patient to the person responsible for her care, period.
Standing approximately 5’11” tall, thin, well-dressed, and quite professional, he asked the appropriate questions concerning the post-operative plan for his aunt (which I felt demonstrated a reasonable amount of knowledge) and I had no reservations about discharging her to his care at that time. In fact, I thought it would be great for my patient to be home, with all the bells and whistles of a recovery room, where the only germs she might encounter were her own, and even better that the nurse taking care of her had a vested interest in her well being, in addition to experience and an advanced degree, a Phd. no less.
Stephan Scoggins’s subsequent behavior seemed to support the notion that I was wrong about him and his intentions. His aunt was not the priority for him I believed her to be. He was late picking her up (which I dismissed as part of being in LA); he did not prepare her room as he said he would; and he left her alone the next morning. The question that begs to be asked here, again, is why? Why didn’t he secure those monitors and things? Why did he leave his aunt alone so soon after surgery? If he couldn’t do what he said he would do for her, why would he let her go home? She could have gone to an aftercare facility. And, more importantly, why didn’t he alert any other health care professionals, including myself that he would not be with her that next day?
All, pretty disturbing questions, but even more disturbing is that the lies occurred during his conversations with the authorities, and worse, that they served as the starting point for the investigation and remained uncorrected for two months.