Stella Case No. 020, Originally Published: 20 November 2002
Every time you visit your doctor, you’re told the same old things: eat less, exercise more, stop smoking. Do you listen? Neither did Kathleen Ann McCormick. The obese, cigarette-smoking woman from Wilkes-Barre, Penn., had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a family history of coronary artery disease. Yet she says doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center “did not do enough” to convince her to work to improve her own health.
As any casual observer would not be surprised to hear, she had a heart attack which, she says in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, left her a “cardiac invalid.” In addition to eight doctors, she’s suing their employer — the U.S. government — demanding a minimum of $1 million in compensation.
Exactly who doesn’t know at this point that obesity is unhealthy? That cigarettes are killers? That high blood pressure dramatically increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks? The government spends millions of dollars getting the word out, but if you don’t hold someone down and say “We’re talking to you, fatso!” they don’t hear it. Whose problem is that, and who should pay when they refuse to listen? Hint: it ain’t the taxpayers.
- “Woman is Suing VA Doctors,” Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader, 17 September 2002
I didn’t find anything beyond the news about the suit itself (and dozens of sites copying my wording). It surely would have been “news” if she prevailed (I hope!), so I’m guessing she didn’t. With such poor health (assuming she really was a “cardiac invalid”), I’m guessing she is deceased by now.
Update: Yes, she’s deceased, according to a link provided in the comments posted by reader Diane in Arkansas. It notes McCormick died in November 2006 (i.e., four years after she filed her lawsuit). She was 72, had served in the Merchant Marines, and was a veteran of the Korean War.
The reaction to the woman suing to stop San Francisco area schools from taking the kids to a free rodeo (Case 019) was rather interesting. As I noted in my 2020 thoughts, there were impassioned letters about rites of passage, the heritage of the west, how wonderful rodeo is. Impassioned letters about animal cruelty, injuries to animals and humans, and how awful rodeo is.
While I’m sure most people “got it,” both extremes who sent these letters totally and completely missed the point.
The issue here is not whether children should go see rodeos. It is rather obvious that different people have different opinions as to whether rodeos are “good” or “bad.” Rather, it should be up to each kid’s parents to decide whether or not their children should go see the rodeo, which was offered to area schools free of charge. And that’s exactly what the schools were doing: asking the parents to decide. But the woman who sued wasn’t content with that — she wanted to decide for those parents, and use the courts to force her values on others no matter what the parents’ feelings were on the matter.
This isn’t about rodeo; it’s about abusing the courts to force a personal agenda on others.
My 2020 Thoughts on the Case
It absolutely should be our right to decline to follow the advice of the medical profession. But once we do that, we can no longer hold them responsible: we’ve dismissed them and their opinions, and the other side of that coin is we have dismissed them from responsibility.
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