As near as I could tell, Larry King, to his credit, got it. The fiasco had started on his show, but he clearly understood from the beginning that there was a lot more to the story. He also correctly understood that, ultimately, the only one who could make it right was me, and urged me to get on with explaining the facts. The problem though remained: doctor-patient privilege. Some of the questions out there required answers that frankly were nobody’s business but Donda West’s. I respect that. And, let’s not forget, the “litigation lawyers for the estate of Donda West and the surviving family members” were continuing to “lobby” the Medical Board of California.
My attorney, Tom Byrne, was concerned with not only protecting my back, but with doing the right thing. I took his advice. We discussed it all, Larry King and I, prior to walking off his show.
“The litigation attorneys for the estate of Dr. Donda West and the surviving family members” however, were lying to the press and manipulating the authorites in order to keep me from telling the truth, but I also know a bit about television. What I gave the authorities was not heresay or lies, I gave them video proof that the stories in the press weren’t coming from me. I declined to speak and simply left. (They, the Medical Board of California, also had the facts, but as we all can see, that doesn’t necessarily motivate career administrators to do the right thing unless someone is watching. And, unfortunately, no one was watching!)
I also needed the coroner to clear me, if I was going to get people to listen to my take. Eventually he did.
To put things in perspective, no one was going to listen to my take until they knew what had happened to Donda West. Even with that, some people were going to walk away denying the facts. I knew that, but two questions still remained: Why did the press take this posture in the first place, and secondly, why did the so-called legitimate news people join in without pursuing the facts of the case? They certainly had the time, the coroner took two months to come to his conclusion.
It would be easy to blame tabloid news organizations for getting this off on the wrong foot, they, particularly TMZ, were wrong. Harvey Levin, for all his bravado, is really just an idiot, a pawn in all this. He and TMZ are under the same pressures as any other media organization that has to put a product out daily. I believe Harvey and TMZ were being used; perhaps willingly, but used nontheless.
I also believe that the persons negligent in the death of Donda West realized early on their predicament, and in order to remain close to the source of money in the family, pointed the finger elsewhere. I believe the plan to do that was orchestrated with the help of the entertainment lawyers, the family, and the media. And I believe the inaccurate information shared by Harvey Levin on Larry King Live was coming from that camp, the family and the “litigation attorneys for the estate of Donda West and her surviving family members”. It certainly was not coming from me (and the authorities, including the Medical Board of California, knew that).
Harvey Levin and TMZ have to take responsibility for their part. They began a malicious assault by contacting my patients (and how I still have no idea), providing false and inaccurate information, and steering the story away from what really happened to cause the death of Donda West. Their duty as journalists, whether they choose to acknowledge it consciously or not, is to speak for someone who couldn’t speak for herself. They didn’t do that. They spoke for people trying to hide their blame, their culpability in this matter. They, the producers at TMZ, dishonored themselves and their profession.
I couldn’t speak for her, at least not yet (and that was the hardest part for me).
In all fairness though, what was the legitimate press to think, when next, a Dr. Aboolian appeared on television offering that he had seen Dr. West in consultation? On camera, sitting at a desk with a chart in front of him, he began going through her history and physical (at least at that time we all thought that was what he was doing; the findings of the coroner demonstrated that his information, just like Harvey Levin’s and TMZ’s was wrong).
If I were a member of the media and knew nothing of doctor-patient privilege, I would certainly have thought, “What does Dr. Adams have to hide?” He’s telling us a “Code of Ethics” prevents him from discussing a patient’s history, but it doesn’t seem to hinder this other guy.
Furthermore the California Medical Board, the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and more importantly, the family and their lawyers weren’t demanding that Aboolian cease and desist. Clearly his behavior violated every tenet of doctor-patient privilege.
The question is why? What was in it for them? Why didn’t those lawyers file a complaint with the Medical Board of California to stop Dr. Aboolian’s from from his “publicity seeking foray”? His office is in the same building, “down the hall” from Pryor Cashman’s Los Angeles office. Why didn’t the litigation lawyers simply walk down the hall and stop him from presenting confidential patient information?
The answer: he was doing and presenting what their side wanted everyone to hear. He was directing blame and accountability away from those who had something to hide. Their motivation was never to protect the privacy rights of Donda West.
When asked for comments by a number of reporters including those at People, and Sister 2 Sister, magazines, Stephan Scoggins, as spokesperson for the family, replied that “the family had no comment. They have, in fact, moved on”.
Yet if that were the case, then articles like the one that appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Sunday, May 25, 2008, more than six months after the death of Donda West, would have ceased to appear. In that article, a niece comments that Ms. West surgery was performed without a physical exam. Could there possibly be a statement more ridiculous than that?
The author, Ron Lin II, suggested, correctly, the ludicrousness of the statement by pointing out that both the surgeon and the anesthesiologist examined Donda West (nonetheless, he printed it anyway as if her statement was fact).
The niece goes on to point out that what happened to Donda didn’t have to happen. She’s right, but for the wrong reason. Just the silliness of her statement demonstrates that she doesn’t have a clue about what happened, and who could move on under those circumstances.
What Mr. Scoggins really meant when he said “the family has moved on” is that they don’t want to get into a discussion about what really happened. Ultimately that would mean, looking at their own behavior, (Donda West was, afterall, home when she passed away) and neither Scoggins, that neice speaking with the press about her aunt’s care, nor the lawyers involved want that happening in an open forum where the facts can be presented beside their comments for everyone to see. They don’t want that happening because they know (and knew at the time) the stories being told were way off point. More importantly, they knew that from the start, from the moment they found out she had died, and I know that to be true because I discussed it with them.
They also don’t want the rest of the family (or the media) to take a critical look at the events leading up to, and directly after, Donda West’s death. They didn’t want it because a few family members were already beginning to question Scoggins and the attorneys take on what had happened, why it happened and whose responsibility it was.
On our website I was beginning to receive more and more e-mails like the one in Figure 27. The author offers that he is related to Donda West, and is concerned (understandably) that the stories “just are not adding up”. I appreciated his need for anonymity.
Stephanie, my assistant, wrote the author back and offered to sit down with the family and give them the information that had already been shared with Scoggins, Rose, and McPherson. We received no follow-up reply.
My advice to the family members with questions was quite simple: Ask why their aunt chose not to go to an aftercare facility? Ask who brought her to the surgery center that morning? Ask who insisted that Donda West sign power of attorney over to another family member? Ask that experienced nurse with an advanced degree, why he was late picking his aunt up? Ask where the bed, the wheel chair, and the monitors for her aftercare were when they arrived home after surgery? Ask why the monitors didn’t even arrive the next morning? Ask why she was abandoned the next morning? Ask an experienced nurse with an advanced degree, why he would abandon a patient whom he had been “feeding Vicodin all night and it wasn’t working” to the care of her personal assistant and a friend, neither of whom had any medical training whatsoever? Ask that nurse why he didn’t check back all day? Ask him why he ignored their calls for help all day Saturday? Ask, how, on his watch, Donda West’s medications (according to Diana, in an interview with S2S Magazine) demonstrated that she had received 20 Vicodin tabs in less than 24 hours, three times the daily recommended dose?
Ask that experienced nurse with an advanced degree, and the lawyers for the estate, Mr. Brad Rose and Ed Mcpherson, why they don’t release the doctor from the doctor-patient privilege and discuss the case in an open, and fair forum? They let Dr. Aboolian read from her chart on television no less, without complaining to the Medical Board of California. Ask that niece Mr. Rong Wong Lin II why the family doesn’t insist on it? And ask yourself, as a journalist, why you didn’t ask any of those questions, or get any of them answered for your readers?
And you the reader ask yourself if any of this were true and relevant, why didn’t the family sue the doctor… Why?
I know the answers to those questions and so do the family and “litigation attorneys” for the family. I know that they had alerted the Medical Board of California, the California Department of Health Services, and the City Attorney’s Office (a violation of professional ethics). I know their intention was to implicate us, myself and the Brentwood Surgery Center, in Donda’s death and thereby divert any attention from where it belonged.