Sep 7, 2012

[REVIEW] "A Wrongful Death" by @LeonBing



In this riveting account of how one child died at the hands of the health-care system that would save her, Bing brings to light a mechanism gone wild with greed and obscured by the silence of knowing collaborators. In the preface to her account of the Scheck family's disastrous encounter with a for-profit psychiatric facility, journalist Bing (Do or Die, 1991; Smoked, 1993) makes it clear that, having worked for a while in a drug-rehab program, she has firsthand knowledge of just how two-faced, how lacking in facilities, and how poorly staffed that system can be.

Christy Scheck's hanging death while interned at a facility owned by National Medical Enterprises (NME) began with a system that made its diagnosis based on the bottom line: the availability and extent of the patient's insurance. The tomboyish 13-year-old, whose close relationship with her father, based on her athleticism, was being disrupted by her maturation, claimed he had sexually molested her-- a lie which became the currency that bought her needed attention once she was cut off from her own family by the facility's undertrained staff.

Incorrectly prescribed drugs, the encouragement to embellish her lies, and inadequate staffing all culminated in Christy's suicide. Her case was not unique. NME finally fell in the early '90s--suffering roughly $80 billion in losses--brought down by lawsuits by the Schecks and other families and patients who had suffered from NME's corrupt practices at facilities from coast to coast. Bing makes clear how human damage can be perpetrated by any institution that sees profit before real care.

This is a devastating account in which facts fall like dominoes. It should alert us to the dangers of centralized institutions that have taken leave of their senses. Unforgettable.  

Years back when I was homeless I used to hang out in the local book stores in Charlottesville Virginia.  There were a few on the outdoor downtown mall, and I would walk along and peruse the books they had on racks along the front windows.  One day I found the book by Leon Bing called "A Wrongful Death", which is about how the for profit health care system not only betrayed the very people it was tasked with helping, but in some cases caused real tangible damage.

One such case was that of Christy Scheck.  Scheck was a good kid who was very athletic and enjoyed competing with the boys teams.  When started to physically mature, her father was concerned and decided that she could no longer play with the boys teams and would move over to the girl's team.  This really set something off inside of Christy and the relationship between her and her father was strained and never recovered.

There were outbursts, lashing out, false accusations of molestation, which while false, still ended up getting her sister pulled from the house while an investigation went on, and other various self destructive behaviors.  Eventually at their wits end as to how to help their daughter, and rescue what little bit of family unity and structure that was remaining, they took the advice of a doctor who recommended that she go to a specific pscyhiatric facility.

She would never come home from there.


It was there that despite being on suicide watch, Christy Scheck took her own life by hanging herself.

This incident helped break open a scandal within the health care system that was built around the all mighty dollar, rather then helping individuals.  Obviously companies are supposed to make money, but you can't put the search for the almighty dollar ahead of the safety and well being of the patients that you are caring for.  A lot of these kids and adults are desperately needing help, and to have that trust betrayed, because you're trying to milk the insurance companies for all you can get, and basically making people worse then they are, just to fill the beds, is reprehensible.

Reading this book really hit home for me.  I've dealt with a lot of mental health issues, as I detailed in my recent blog post which you read by clicking here.  I always grew up wondering what was wrong with me.  And even today I still have times when I just sit back and think that I'm defective somehow, and that I just wished I could go to sleep and never wake up.

Due to my mental health issues, and some physical ailments, there are many days that I just don't want to be in pain anymore.  I'm tired of hurting, I'm tired of (in my head) being a burden on people, and constantly screwing over everyone that's ever been good to me.

Yet while reading this book it just hammered home just how bad it COULD have been for me.  There have been plenty of times in my life that I could have easily ended up in a place like that.   My parents were going out of their heads trying to figure out what was wrong with me, and why I was acting out and just engaging in this self destructive behavior and not being able to control my impulses.  They took me to psychiatrists, psychologists, put me on various medications, put me in Special-Ed classes, basically doing any and everything they could think of short of committing me.

They never said anything to me about the last part, but in my mind I knew that it had to be in theirs.   And what made it all the much worse was that my mother was an educator in the school system, and she taught other teachers how to deal with Special Ed kids.  Imagine how that made her feel!   Here is a situation where she teaches other people how to deal with people like ME, and yet ....   It was frustrating to her, and it was frustrating to me.  Kind of like how the children of Pastors can be some of the most rebellious types of people, I suppose.

And reading the book just made me see so much of myself and the things I had gone through, at least in my mind in trying to deal with these things that I always knew was wrong with me but never knew how to talk about it.  My parents were already exhausted and frustrated so I didn't want to talk to them about it and start anything back up.  As a guy, we're taught that mental health issues are a sign of weakness and so there was no way I was telling anyone at school like a counselor or anything.

So I basically grew up having to deal with this, and essentially go undiagnosed all of my life, as none of my doctors or specialists ever came up with anything beyond ADD/ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and that type of thing.   I never had anyone to talk to about it, or anyone that I could relate to.  No one to let me know that I wasn't weak for how my mind would betray me at times.

That's why it just devastated me when I got to the part about Christy's death because all I kept thinking was "This could have been me.  This could have been me."   I found myself crying while I read this because all throughout the book, I recognized so much of myself in Christy's situation.   And I wondered how could two people, like myself and Christy have so much in common and end up in different outcomes?   And how easily could I have ended up in one of these hell hole for profit systems that don't give a shit about the actual health and well being of the patients, instead they're only interested in how long your insurance will cover you to stay.

I found myself so angry at the complete lack of any type of integrity or sense of compassion for people who are at their absolute lowest.  Who prey on the weak, who manipulate them for financial gain, and play them against their family who are doing everything to help them are are desperate for any glimpse of a shining light at the end of their dark and turmoil filled tunnel that they have been in.

The way the under trained employees would take and essentially coax out false confessions of sexual molestation against Christy's father was disgusting and just left me stunned.   Those types of accusations are devastating and can cause irreparable harm.  Even if you're exonerated, as he was, it's never the same.  You're not "The guy who was false accused of molestation" you're the guy who was accused of molesting his daughter.

And all because they weren't trained enough to recognize her attention seeking tactics.

I recommend this book highly!  If you have any type of soul or conscience, this will make you angry. VERY angry, however it's a book that is so very important.  This book details a massive health care insurance scam in California and how it was brought down, in part, by the tragic death of one young girl.

YOU CAN ORDER THIS BOOK BY CLICKING HERE. (I get nothing by you ordering through this link.  It's not a referral link or anything like that.)

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