Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

Doctor loses licence to kill

Incompetent doctor case 
shows hospital’s real priorities

The report on Aug. 17 that the state Health Department had stripped an emergency room doctor of his license would have been the first time that most people in the Capital Region would have heard of this case.

Except those who have been reading this blog. Details of one of the accusations of misconduct against the doctor have been reported here several times in the two years this page has been on the Web.

The former doctor is Louis Sidoti of Wynantskill. Sidoti worked at Albany Memorial Hospital and at St. Peter’s Hospital. He faced 17 allegations of misconduct.

One of them involved his treatment of 58-year-old Joan A. Clark of Rensselaer. As was reported here in August of 2005, Clark had a personal and family history of heart problems. On April 8, 2002, she was taken to the emergency room at Albany Memorial Hospital complaining of back pain and vomiting. It is known that in women, back pain is often a symptom of a heart attack. But despite this, and her medical history, a doctor in the hospital’s emergency room – now known to be Sidoti – gave Clark a hurried examination – but not a normally routine EKG or blood work – and sent her home.

An hour later, Sidoti was pronouncing her dead, after she collapsed just after getting home and was rushed back to the hospital in an ambulance.

A second post here later that month reported that the lawsuit brought by Joan Clark’s husband, Fred, had been settled.

The first posting pointed to the Clark case as an example of how Capital Region media – in this case, the Times Union – ignored this story, but had given extensive coverage to another case that was remarkably similar: That of a woman who died after medical personnel refused to respond to her complaints, over many hours, of extreme chest pain.

The woman, 39-year-old Laura Woolsey, had just been released from Ellis Hospital in
Schenectady after treatment for a heart condition.

In that case, the Times Union went all out, running several stories over three days, and an editorial.

But the Clark case – even though Joan Clark’s husband is a well known former city councilman in Rensselaer and one of her sisters, Pat Jackson, has been on the Common Council for much of the past 29 years – was never mentioned.

As was pointed out in the posting on this site, the only real difference in the case that was reported and the one that was ignored was that Woolsey was in the Schenectady County Jail at the time. The jail does not provide the Times Union with a steady stream of money for advertising: Northeast Health Inc., which owns both Memorial Hospital and Samaritan, does.

The other striking part of this story is that it is now clear that everybody involved – the hospital, the lawyers and the insurance company – knew right from the start that Sidoti’s treatment of Clark was far from the standard of care, and that she had died as a direct result of his incompetence. Yet they still denied responsibility, forcing Fred Clark to file a lawsuit and go through a legal battle before they settled the case three years later, in effect admitting their doctor had killed his wife.

In Lisa’s case, the first thing Samaritan Hospital’s management did was to take everything out of her medical chart. Three days later her folder contained no records prior to her transfer from the hospital room where she had been found, near death and with a with a blood sugar reading of just 2. As in the Clark case, it appears they knew right then they had a problem. The first order of business was to hide the evidence.

The next was to call the lawyers.


As has been reported here previously, Lisa’s case is no longer being handled by attorney Cynthia LaFave.
Details of the legal action taken against me by Ms.LaFave are now available at a separate page on the Web

The address is:


Money-driven "conspiracy"
allows thousands to die

A 14-year-old resident of a group home drowns while on a swimming outing. Several weeks later, a report on an official investigation is released and a story appears in the media.

A paralyzed man drowns in a tub in the residence for the disabled where he lives, and at least three agencies launch investigations. One of them releases a report within days. It, and the progress of other investigations are widely reported in newspapers.

A prisoner awaiting sentence for killing her boyfriend dies after collapsing in her cell. Allegations of mistreatment of her by jail staff generate numerous stories and a newspaper editorial in the first week, and another story when the results of one of at lease three official investigations is released.

But a patient dies in a hospital under circumstances that raise many questions about the care she was given in the hours before she received catastrophic injuries, and even one of the most powerful politicians in the state can’t – or, more likely, won’t – make the detailed findings of the only official investigation available to the family.

Why would this be? Why are so many people who could stop it so willing to look the other way when it comes to the deaths of people in the care of a facility that is supposed to heal and "do no harm."

The answer, of course, is money.

Money for politicians, who have kept laws that regulate hospitals weak and penalties low.

And money ,in the form of advertising revenue, for the media, so that the public is kept unaware of allegations of medical malpractice, thus allowing doctors and hospitals to create a totally false image of safety and competence.

The truth is that a hospital is a very dangerous place. Even using the most conservative estimates, more people die needlessly in medical institutions than on the roads. The numbers are staggering: At least 120 preventable deaths a day in hospitals in the U.S., 18 of them each day in New York.

That’s five deaths as hour nationwide; one every 80 minutes in New York.
But this carnage goes on, day after day, year after year, and despite the talk about improving patient safety, those terrible numbers have stayed almost the same since a study from the Institutes of Health reported those numbers in 2000.

It doesn’t to be that way.

If the law made a failure to provide even basic care a violation, and provided penalties that were more than a joke, hospitals would have to change their ways. Nurse/patient ratios that were reduced so that a hospital could save money – as happened when Northeast Health cut a total of 225 positions to save $10 million soon after it acquired Samaritan and Albany Memorial Hospital in 1997 – would have to be restored.

And if newspapers were reporting the more serious allegations made in lawsuits – as they routinely did until the late 1990s, there would be only one way to stop the bad news; reduce the errors that led to the deaths and injuries, and when mistakes did occur, immediately and fully acknowledge them to the patient or the patient’s family.

But while politicians and newspaper editors remain so willing to sell their integrity for a hospital’s dollars, the huge financial and emotional cost will continue.

It's a disturbing thought. Hospitals, politicians and the media: partners in so much suffering for profit.