A Virginia man filed a lawsuit alleging that doctors mocked and defamed him while he was unconscious during a colonoscopy, Courthouse News Service reports.
The unnamed plaintiff claims Tiffany Ingham, M.D., and Soloman Shah, M.D., of Safe Sedation and Safe Sedation Management mocked him after putting him under for the procedure, according to the article, and were captured in a cellphone video the plaintiff used to record the doctors' instructions for post-operative care.
The recording captured Ingham telling the unconscious plaintiff, "And really, after five minutes of talking to you in pre-op I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit," as well as calling him a "retard" and a "wimp," and jokingly speculating that he had syphilis. The doctors also speculated that he was gay due to his alma mater, the University of Mary Washington, a former women's college.
The plaintiff wants $1 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages for infliction of emotional distress, illegal disclosure of health records and defamation, according to the article.
Despite such cases, state medical boards rarely discipline physicians, according to Medscape. The Federation of State Medical Boards told the site that state boards only disciplined 4,479 of the 878,194 active, licensed physicians in the U.S. in 2012--less than 1 percent.
The suit is emblematic of the decline in doctors' professional reputations in recent years. "The once-venerable medical profession has taken quite a tumble from its pedestal, with the terms 'untrustworthy' and 'greedy' used to characterize doctors more often than 'respected' and 'benevolent,'" Linda S. Ellis, M.D., of the Frank H. Netter M.D. School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University wrote in an opinion piece for Live Science.
Pressure on physicians to always be "right" contributes to a mistrustful culture where physicians fear asking questions or conceding mistakes, according to Ellis. "We tell one another and our students to never admit wrongdoing," she wrote. "[E]ven worse, we model bad behavior to our medical students and residents, training new doctors to perpetuate behaviors that engender distrust."