It’s all Theory Until Medical Objectification and Racism Happens to You
Update: Many the criticisms I have of this show, in terms of institutional racism, racism in medicine directed towards BIPOC, specifically African-American women in medicine were directly addressed in Season 3, Episode 6 and 7. I’m still catching up on the show and I’m not exactly sure if they will cover corrupt doctors. But overall this show is well done, expertly acted and well-written. I call it the Pot Roast of dramatic series, overdone in spots but that’s what makes it tasty. I really do love the show for what it’s trying to do. So take my criticisms more as first impressions. This is good television.
Medical Racism and Objectification is all Theory Until it Claims the Life of Someone You Love
Let me give you my backstory so my critical review of my favorite show comes from a place of love, and not hate. Or at the very least, not contempt and disdain. Though it may seem that way. I’ll try to be brief.
Aside from losing my mother at the age of 16, and her liver transplant doctor telling me on the phone at the age of 14 that “Your mother needs this transplant or she’ll die.” There were few negative things I felt about doctors or nurses. They saved my life at 14 after I was hit by a truck, saved my Mom at least for a year or two, even sewed my father’s ear back on after a fall down a flight of stairs. I thought all doctors were good and honorable. I was a child of the 70’s.
Then life happened. I became a long-term caregiver for my father, who in 2001, after 9-11 developed full-blown PTSD from his WWII Days. I would discover his home torn apart, and he had done a good job of hiding the symptoms. He, being 50 years older than me, it fell to me to be his caregiver. Family couldn’t have cared less. So I did the job until 2017, when he passed. He didn’t pass due to old age, he passed through medical incompetent and abandonment of care by the VA.
Why New Amsterdam Hits Close to Home
I have written much about what happened in the last month of his life, enough to fill a book. Before my father was dumped out of Mercy Hospital while ill, I never knew this was a thing. I was happy to see New Amsterdam addressed this tactic in Season 2, some two years after it cost my father his life, and me my health. When it was happening to me, I saw the train coming, I alerted Richie Neal before the train came, but his office was powerless to stop it. The VA would throw me, his long-term caregiver under the bus, they would hide his records, lie in reports and I would go toe-to-toe with them and the cottage industry of local hospitals in Western, MA who make a handsome living off of the VA’s incompetence. My father would be forced against both our will, through a Mercy Hospital doctor into a Wingate at Springfield (they have changed their name since) where he, medicated, improperly discharged in the cold and rain, a man of 96 year. 8 hours later he would suffer a fall that would land him in ICU. (Wingate never reported his fall to the state as required by law) It was clear Wingate and Mercy were in cahoots. What would follow would be a slow painful death that would last for months, and I would be his primary caregiver and advocate. There would be many plot twists, I his biracial (half-black) son, would encounter racism and discrimination based on perceived sexual orientation. He would received chemotherapy without notice or informed consent from Baystate Medical, and I would be injured lifting his wheelchair a month before he passed when we fell on the steps of our home, either he was going to go face forward onto the PCA and VA Van driver or I would try breaking his fall backward, I braced my feet on the rollback bars and all his weight fell on my feet and back as he fell backwards, My father was a heavy man.
Cover-Up Not Even Needed Because the Law Doesn’t Care about Elders
I made the mistake of going to Riverbend in Agawam, and after my first meeting, I got the paperwork and said to my doctor, “Part of Mercy Hospital, if I had known that, I would have ran the other way….they put my father in that wheelchair.” He left home walking and came home in a wheelchair, unable to swallow, breathe, drink or walk. The story is more complicated than time allows here. But I became from that point “The enemy of the system”, and my medical record over the next 7 months read more like a criminal indictment than a medical record. I was vilified, objectified and mistreated. I was called a liar, a drug seeker, promiscuous, told I was in a gay relationship, confidences with my physician were shared with outside doctors after I expressly said they should not. P.A.’s tried replacing my neurosurgeon, I was told I was lying about the fall, which was witnessed by no less than 5 witnesses.
An Introduction to Medical Gaslighting
I was 45 and I had only heard of gaslighting in passing. I didn’t know it was an actual tactic used on other people, let alone by medical professionals in white coats. Not by nurses and doctors who I gave the benefit of the doubt and assumed were working in our best interests. But my father’s Mercy doctor and nurse gaslit me and my father and force discharged him into rehab with an unsafe discharge and he fell 8 hours after an unsafe (and likely illegal) discharge and ended up in an ICU after falling 8 hours after being admitted into Wingate at Springfield. He suffered a slow and painful death that lasted 2 months. A month before he died, we fell while transporting his wheelchair and I was injured. I sought help from Riverbend clinic, upon seeing their letterhead…not realizing they were owned by Mercy, the very hospital that PUT my father in that wheelchair. I told his doctor at my first consult: “If I knew you were part of Mercy, I would have ran the other why…but I’m here now. (both Wingate and Riverbend changed their names after all of this. Riverbend is now part of Trinity Health of New England).The system it seems was “in on it”. And I fought the system. They called me a liar in court up and down to spite the debilitating pain and MRIs showing injury, but they were able to delay the proceedings to the point where my home was in “tax title” and I would lose it if I didn’t settle the case.
Riverbend’s Cover-up (Trinity Health of New England)
After the frist P.A. tried gaslighting me into saying my injuries were NOT caused by my fall. I resisted, and wrote a detailed account to patient services. Because of a clerical mix-up, the wrong P.A. was named (I had two P.A. visits scheduled for that day and Patient Services and I were confused about who actually saw me) and by the time we cleared it up, a P.A. who I actually never saw was named. I was advised to go back if I wanted pain management, and behold, who was waiting there…the P.A. I wrongly named in my complaint. Riverbend was so poorly run, that they didn’t catch on and thought I was complaining out of thin air. When I arrived at the second P.A. (who was waiting to insist I could not file under worker’s comp even though I called ahead of time to straighten that out with his secretary. He was ADAMANT that I did not injure myself in the line of work. (I was a PCA for my father in the last several years of his life). Well, P.A. two, didn’t like that I complained to patient services, he outright said: “I practice Tai Kwon Do daily, and I fall daily, your pain is nothing like the pain I feel when I fall.” He was wildly inappropriate, and after my doctor sided with him, even though he did not examine my back, which she ordered. He didn’t examine me, and when I resisted, he put his hand on the door knob. As I was leaving he told me to exit through the back door. I declined and gave him a few choice words. I detailed all that happened, Wrote a second complaint to patient services, which I did not send it. I met with my doctor at Riverbend, and she was unsympathetic. I begged her again for an MRI, told her of my hand and lower back pain and she was unmoved. I would have reported them all, but now I was unable to work. I couldn’t get help from the state without her, EVERY doctor I encountered was lying or doing sub-legal things, and I would look like a lunatic trying to report them all. They were all part of Mercy and were looking out for each other. An orthopedic doctor at Mercy told me, “Nerve pain doesn’t usually go down both legs.” and that was his basis for not looking at my X-rays or giving me an MRI. So I made a B-Line to the Mass Commission Against Discrimination and filed a discrimination complaint. They responded that I was trying to hide my sexual orientation. You heard right. And in subsequent filings they would invent facts about me including my medical history, paint me as a drug seeker and anything else that could stick. Ultimately because I was fightin six or seven lying (and coordinated lying institutions) I could not report every gaslighting medical professional, but I did report my primary care doctor. I reasoned that since she was in charge of my diagnosis and she ordered the examinations that were NOT carried out by the P.A.s and since I was patient and went back to her to tell her that they didn’t examine me, and since she had changed her tone within my medical record (which read more like a criminal indictment) I would report her to the board of medicine. To file a complaint against a P.A. is a separate process. Further, if I complained against every doctor and nurse and what they did. From gaslighting, to forced discharge, to administering chemo and surgery without notice and consent, I would look like a madman. You also have to remember, I was injured, with a blown out L5, two crushed feet and suffering from Lyme and severe depression and prolonged grief. I was also a newly enrolled college student, struggling to walk to class daily in some cases. Because my Riverbend doctor refused to acknowledge my injuries, I couldn’t get welfare or foodstamps, or even afford the bus. In fact my water to my home was shut off. I finally left Riverbend and was immediately diagnosed and MRId. I got a court order to have my water cut on. I also had to fight for worker’s comp, and that was it’s own ring of hell. I did all of this whilst reporting everything that happened to MCAD. But because I am mostly white presenting, Mass Commission Against Discrimination didn’t give a shit. In fact, when Riverbend broke the law by breaking HIPAA and publishing parts of my medical history in public documents, MCAD was silent. When they flat out lied about my sexual history, they were silence. Verifiable and easily falsifiable lies, for reasons I explain in my book.
All Stemming from My Father’s Horrible Death
I finally saw where this was going. I was out of work, and in excruciating pain. Why? I provided most of my Pop’s care in those last months. I was not prepared for his end-of-life suffering. He pleaded multiple times for me to “give him the needle” and he could not sleep, eat or drink. It was…horrible. I even caught his VA nurse on video abandoning his care. (It’s MA I can’t release the video without possibly ending up in jail myself)….and he suffered. I had committed to seeing him through to the end, and even though I surrounded him with the best PCAs and CNAs….that wasn’t enough. The VA got to him anyway. I would find out later that his VA nurse was arrested for assaulting a teen, and that her son and husband were both heroine addicts. And that explained her behavior over the years, my aunt tried warning me that her behavior was erratic and she confided in me that she had mental health issues, but I told her of my father’s bleeding and she took urine and dismissed the bleeding.
A Rogue VA Nurse: With….Issues
After his death I found out about her arrest and her husband being on the lam. And a the kid she assaulted, dead of an overdose. I wish I can tell you the nightmare ended there, but it did not. My father, a decorated WWII vet who actually captured a German spy was tossed out like trash by the VA and Mercy and Baystate, and they ALL LIED. I was even questioned at his deathbed as to whether I was his real son. Other things happened too. I was completely objectified, and there is literally nobody to help. Patient Advocates, were useless. All I could do is take notes, make videos, document everything. NIH swept it under the rug. In the course of all of this, I would learn that many in the VA, Nurses, Doctors and Administrators are some of the meanest people on earth. Often they are ex-military and struggling with their own anger, depression and mental illness. It is my theory that the reason they can so easily abandon the care of soldiers, in effect kill them, is because many of them are trained to do just that. There is no possible way that you can cause that much human suffering and not compartimentalize it, not have it eat away at your emotions and soul. No way.
No Family Support: People are Shit
After I buried my father alone, yes there were relatives at the funeral, none helped me plan, and none mourned with me. Only one family witness, my Aunt. (Lord Love her) came forward as a witness. The VA Van driver, my father’s Private Hire PCA all disappeared. Workers Comp said the accident didn’t happen, but two of my neighbors saw the whole thing and swore affidavits.
After I buried him I laid down to die, and contracted Lyme disease instead. My doctor at Riverbend blamed every last thing on the Lyme and my low vitamin D. After 7 months of being delayed really, I left. And found a physiatrist to actually examine my back and order the MRI, which found a complete blow-out of my L5. It would take half a dozen additional doctor visits to get an MRI of one foot, though I crushed both feet, insurance would only do one. They verified my foot injuries. I reported my Riverbend doctor to the Board of Medicine and they took no action but put my complaint in her permanent file. Even as she responded, she continued to objectify me.
HIPPA Violations Don’t Apply to Billionaires
At MCAD they tried burying me under a mountain of lies and HIPPA violations (read: HIPPA violations are OK if you are a multi-billion dollar company) I refuted each and every one of their lies and it took months. With verifiable evidence that they were lying. To spite all of this MCAD found “No probable cause” and that they didn’t retaliate. I’m still calling bullshit. I know like I know that they thought they buried the truth.
My Gripe is with The System So I Tried Taking The Criminal Medical Syndicate to Federal Court.
I filed against the three main offenders, The VA, Mercy, Baystate and Wingate. On the exact day that Covid19 shut down the Federal Courts. As a Pro Se Litigant in the Springfield District Federal Court with Judge Mastroianni. In fact, I had to mail in the complaint because the court was closed for months. Then it occurred to me that this problem was MUCH larger than just these hospitals…it involved Masshealth, Riverbend, and even the Funeral Home that buried my father. And each one of these organizations exploited our vulnerability. And that my father was tossed away simply for being an old patient. So I expanded my suit to include ALL of these parties. I knew that a $22 mil suit against the VA, Mercy and Wingate stood a good chance of winning or settling, but I also knew it would settle and things would continue on as usual. I expanded the suit. And I waited for a reply from the court. Instead I got a dismissal from Judge Mastroianni. Reason: “Failure to answer a memo of deficiencies from the judge.” I never received anything from the judge. Odd, because I got every correspondence before and after, but not that memo. The judge did not care. On the advice of the Court Clerk (who later second-guessed that advice), I appealed to the First District Court of Appeals in Boston. I was told I would get a response from the three judge panel in October 2020. I was ghosted. Apparently taking on the whole system doesn’t work. So now, I assemble a staff, and I write a book. People must know what happened. Now…my critical review of New Amsterdam.
Our Story of Medical Ageism, Racism, Ableism and Medical Objectification
As I buckle down with the book, I reflect on all the doctors I’ve had, the good, the bad and the indifferent. I think about them as human beings and give them the benefit of the doubt that they so often denied me and my father. But I know that when I put pen to paper I must continue to give them that benefit.
New Amsterdam Brought Back MemoriesMy one criticism of New Amsterdam is that it is a white savior trope, albeit a very sophisticated one, but tired old one at that. Max is the center, his wife is the princess, he has all the answers, we feel deeply for him, we all root for him. And why shouldn’t we, he’s literally sacrificing himself for the greater good. He’s on a mission to save everyone, even those too dumb to know they need saving. (and he’s even Jewish, which is ironic) Max makes everything better, the staff even understands cultural differences and accommodates for them. Hell, I even see them getting rid of the racist BMI index in future episodes. (I’m joking, they’ll never do that)
I like this show very much and that’s in spite of it being the very definition of white savior complex. Plus there are many obvious and non-obvious tells, mostly in the form of racist tropes that rubbed me the wrong way. The black boy’s vision board having all white models on it. (sad). The superficial treatment of police brutality against black and brown bodies. Dr. Reynolds seems to be used as a grounding device. His character skirts around the issue of dating and marrying black, when he declares that he intends to marry black, but we (at least as far as I’ve made it) never explore the complexity of this issue. Instead, presto-chango he finds a perfect beautiful sister (and she is stunning) out of the ether. (delivered by a fellow white savior) Sigh. If only it worked that way in real life. Dr. Reynold’s character also allows us to see that police are sometimes unfair and do things to derail the lives of Black citizens no matter how perfect those citizens are. Great, let’s explore that. No…we have other saving to do. Now maybe I’m being too hard on the writers, perhaps this show was simply created to entertain and provoke thought, band maybe it’s just an allegory of God’s love for humanity. But then I ask, why does our pain, the pain of BIPOC people make for entertainment? Doesn’t News and Social Media already do it’s fair share of dehumanizing out suffering?
Instead these traumas are used just to fill a sub-plot, as a brown and beige underpainting we use to work out the details of the show’s true star, Max. Weak tea. Same in other episodes addressing issues of social inequality and disenfranchisement, many Dues ex Machina solutions to deep traumatic problems. That’s called entertainment, not thoughtful writing.
But in writing one must consider the source and the target audience being written for. But we can’t expect shows to be perfect and New Amsterdam is better than most. The acting, direction and writing are otherwise solid. Like a pot roast it is overdone in spots, but still delicious. Some would say those crispy overdone bits are what make a roast so good.
Shining a Light into Dark Places
At least they are trying to move us in the right direction, but is it really that hard to tell stories in which you are not the center or the shining light? Let’s not vilify anyone, but at the same time not make doctors out to be heroes they are not. I’m only on season 1, so I don’t know if this will change, but having been abused by a system of doctors, I can tell you there aren’t many who put their patients ahead of insurance, their reputation, expedience, and especially their standing with colleagues. (read: covering for them) Where are the nurses with bad attitudes? Where are the objectifying doctors who blame the patients injuries on their weight? Where are the fast-talking P.A.’s posing as neurologists? Where are the racial profiling security guards? Where are the dishonest doctors whose diagnosis is contingent on whether they can perform surgery? Where are the P.A.s? Where is the patient objectification and misunderstandings? But I guess if we told the whole truth then it wouldn’t make for very good entertainment, now would it?
My name is Edmund J. Janas, II and I am a victim of the Medical Industrial Complex, My father was killed as a result of medical mistreatment, negligence and abandonment of care based on his advanced age. I am a surviver of medical objectification and discrimination. The truth will not be mocked.