Physician, Heal Thyself

October 7, 2020 | Crandall & Pera Law
Physician, Heal Thyself

People from all walks of life and all ages become victims of medical malpractice. From executive management to the blue-collar workforce, negligence by a so-called trusted medical professional can only make a bad medical situation worse. Steven H. Horowitz is 78 years-old and an avid bicyclist. Hours after a vigorous, 15-mile bike ride, he developed pain from the continued neck extensions combined with numbness and tingling down his arms. Two days later, Horowitz went to the emergency department of an elite medical center.

A Doctor Becomes the Patient

Revealing to the staff that he was a neurologist, he informed them that he suspected cervical spine disease with the possibility of spinal cord and root compression. Ironically, that was Horowitz’s specialty. He requested a cervical MRI and blood studies to determine potential spine infection. Horowitz found it strange, if not alarming that the spinal consultant tested his reflexes with the side of his hand. He inquired if he had a reflex hammer. His professional “peer” rebuffed him, seemingly boasting that he neither had one nor needed one. The visit went downhill from there with testing initially overlooked, only to be rife with mistakes and oversights. The MRI revealed spinal cord compression due to arthritis and an abscess on Horowitz’s neck misidentified by the radiologist as a blood clot. Subsequent blood work showed an infection and other serious medical issues. It should be noted that none of this was communicated to Horowitz. He only found out after returning home and reviewing his medical records online. Following his discovery, he was admitted to the hospital for spine surgery and long-term intravenous antibiotics. Had he not followed up and had he not been an experienced physician who specializes in this area, he could have become quadriplegic.

A Doctor Gains Perspective

Few doctors will ever receive that level of perspective that countless patients experience following a misdiagnosis. For Horowitz, the medical professional became a medical malpractice victim. Numerous letters to the hospital were met with refusals to take responsibility or even apologize for their severe shortcomings. The consultant’s supervisor went so far as to absolve his underling of any responsibility. Believing that he saved his own skin, Horowitz did not pursue a lawsuit. In the end, he took a longtime belief and oft-used phrase and gave it new meaning. “A physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.” Had he not acted “foolishly,” the good doctor’s 15-mile bike ride and any other form of physical activity would have been his last.