How to get yourself in hot water in Medicine: lie for someone famous

Another of life’s lessons, i.e., learn from the mistakes of others.

Plaxico Burress, apparently another incredibly gifted athlete with a 10 cent head, shot himself the other day.  Understandably he went to get medical help, and that’s where the weirdness for this lesson started:

New York Post* Getting special treatment at New York-Cornell Hospital, where he gave his name as Harris Smith, saying he’d been shot at an Applebee’s restaurant. Nonetheless, hospital workers recognized him as Plaxico Burress, sources said, and the gunshot was not reported, as required by law.

The trio was logged in at 2:45 a.m. by a New York-Cornell security guard, according to records reviewed by the police. The facility is connected with The Hospital for Special Surgery – a popular choice among elite athletes, where Burress was once treated himself. He was out about 10 hours later.

Hospital workers recognized Burress and agreed not to report the incident to police, the sources said.

City and state officials plan to interview hospital administrators about the trauma-unit visit and how notification of police was mishandled.

(emphasis added by me)

I wouldn’t relish being the hospital spokesman in this circumstance, but even I could come up with something better than this laffer:

A hospital spokesman, for the second straight day, denied that Burress was treated there.

"There was nobody listed under that name," the spokesman, Bryan Dotson, said.

According to state law, failing to report a gunshot injury to cops is a class A misdemeanor. But when asked about the hospital’s reporting policies, the spokesman said, "I don’t know what the policy and protocol is on that."

You’d better get briefed on it; this isn’t going to go well for a lot of people there.

Best of luck, NY-Cornell.  I suspect you’re going to need it.


  1. Holy crap. A whole bunch of people, possibly including the treating physician, are going to lose their jobs, licenses, and may go to jail (though I doubt the last). And I don’t think I feel particularly sorry for them.

  2. It never ceases to amaze me how professional athletes can and continually circumvent the law.
    Since when did your performance in a sport make you above the law?

  3. Yes, it depends on how the investigation goes, who is actually responsible for the notification, etc. I know that I’ve seen a ton of GSW’s and have never personally reported any of them; I know there’s a policy and that it’s someone elses’ job at the hospital to report these things (I think it’s our charge nurse).

    This hospital also just opened themselves up to as many intrusive investigations the State can think of, and for what? To try and cover up for someone famous? Why?

  4. I would be interested to see if a clever attorney argues that federal HIPAA law supercedes the state requirements. Hmm… I am now guilty though of doing what so many people do and that is throw around the “hipaa” trump card without ever actually reading the relevant passages.

  5. I make sure that the charge nurse notifies the police so that an officer comes to the bedside and creates a report for every GSW, either prior to disposition for the minor ones or less urgently for the admitted/expired ones. I don’t think it’s a medical issue that would jeopardize anyone’s license if notification were not performed; the state medical board wouldn’t care. It’s more of a legal issue:

    physician who attends or treats, or who is requested to attend or
    treat, a bullet or gunshot wound, or the administrator,
    superintendent, or other person in charge of a hospital,
    sanitorium, or other institution in which a bullet or gunshot wound
    is attended or treated or in which the attention or treatment is
    requested, shall report the case at once to the law enforcement
    authority of the municipality or county in which the physician
    practices or in which the institution is located.

    Failure to report appears to be a Class C Misdemeanor.

  6. Jim in Texas says:

    Seems like that’s a cautionary line that almost any news story could carry.


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