Personal responsibility (Updates below)

Marcellus Wiley is on Mike and Mike right now. He has decided to join the newly filed lawsuit charging medical malpractice by the NFL’s team doctors. Cris Carter is sitting alongside Greenie today, and has taken up the Golic mantra of “personal responsibility.”

Interestingly, Wiley says he is engaged to an anesthesiologist. Wiley related that she has always been “appalled” when he told her stories of how NFL doctors handled player injuries. So when he heard some of the stories connected to the suit announced yesterday, including those that resonated with his own experience, he decided to join.

Wiley recounted a recent episode in which, as he pulled up to the studio to tape one of his shows, his entire body seized up, making it impossible for him to get out of his car. The diagnosis: advanced renal failure. Wiley is 39 and has none of the risk indicators associated with that condition. Except for this – that he received Toradol treatments many times during his decade long career in the NFL.

Carter’s rejoinder was that it’s also on the players – their “personal responsibility” – who decide to line up for those Toradol shots. Carter’s argument is both obtuse and irrelevant. It’s obtuse because everyone understands that if players don’t do whatever it takes to get back on the field, they can be out of a job and a career. Furthermore, if you don’t do whatever it takes to play through the pain, you are likely going to be ostracized by your teammates in a sport in which there’s an especially powerful culture of conformity.

Carter’s statement is also irrelevant because, regardless of whether the players line up for shots, the doctor’s legal and ethical responsibility remains the same. That legal and ethical responsibility is not to prescribe courses of treatment that the doctor is aware might do lasting harm to the patient. There is simply no parallel responsibility between players lining up for a treatment and the doctors ensuring informed consent as to what the effects of that treatment might be.

Wiley also said that he’d once been diagnosed with team doctors told him was a groin strain injury. Wiley played through it, though his career was never the same after he developed that injury. Later, he learned from a non-NFL doctor that he a severe tear in his abdominal wall.

Does anyone seriously doubt that there are countless stories of this sort?

This is a legal matter. That means the defendants will get to tell their side of the story. Therefore, none of what we’ve heard so far is the last word. But “personal responsibility” and “you knew” aren’t going to cut it as defenses.

Update: I have only caught snippets so far, but Colin Cowherd is pushing the personal responsibility line. Cowherd is arguing that doctors merely “offer” players drugs; they don’t “force” players to take them. This is wholly besides the point, as are the benefits players enjoyed because of their stardom. If doctors – who have an indisputable legal and ethical responsibility to their patients – fail to meet those responsibilities, they may be legally liable. Period.

More besides-the-point chatter on The Herd. Tony Boselli is arguing that he knew the risks and he’s the one who wanted the Toradol.

The responsibility of medical professionals is to administer treatments that are safe and serve the long-term interests of the patient. Boselli and Cowherd are operating from the completely misguided notion that doctors are like salesmen. Choosing what cereal or car to buy is *not* the same as choosing whether and how often to take Toradol. The latter is governed, necessarily, by a set of laws that acknowledge the profundity and complexity of the decisions involved.

Caveat Emptor – which is essentially the principle Cowherd is ignorantly pushing – is inapplicable when it comes to the practice of medicine.

It does not follow that every claim in the lawsuit will be valid. But the framing of the debate by Cowherd is simply wrong.

Second update: here’s part of an email from one of my oldest friends, a doctor: “I would certainly be accountable, ethically and legally, if I knowingly continued to prescribe to someone with addictive behavior.”

I am confident this would not be a controversial statement among people who have taken the Hippocratic oath, or some version thereof.

The question here is the conduct of medical professionals.


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