Sunday, January 23, 2011

“Sparks” are Still Flying….

Some issues stay alive simply because of the human condition. Others are slowly beaten to death, and then resurrected by new champions. And there are those whose passion seems to invoke a life of their own: filled with players at odds and unrelenting.
Then there are those issues that embody all three.
The story of Twana Sparks, an ENT in Silver City NM, seems to be one of those anomalies. Just when the controversy seems to ebb, it bobs back to the surface for redress when new opinions flare. Like it or not, and many do not, the debate storms on.
Sparks was accused of performing non-authorized genital exams on male patients without consent and while they were under anesthesia. While denying any wrongdoing, she did sign an agreed order with the Medical Board which outlines the ‘conditions which Sparks must comply with in order to continue practicing’. Some of those conditions include regular therapy sessions with a psychotherapist, polygraph exams every four months, and not performing any genital, rectal or breasts exams for any reason.
A few minutes spent traveling the blog-o-sphere will find numerous comments from both sides of the exam table, including the paper’s own comment section with over 300 comments to date. (See news story and comments) Here we find posters who regale Sparks with praise as an ‘otherwise’ trusted ENT, and others who believe her license should have been revoked. (Of course there’s some off-topic chatter from those who simply must speak to any occasion available, so be prepared for a few odd forays into weirdness.) All in all, what is interesting are the amount of people willing to acknowledge the possibility of abuse yet ignore it as a sort of collateral damage. Whether guilty or not, in their eyes the risk is worth her care.
So I have to wonder….why are people prepared to give up personal integrity in order to receive expected services? What makes some patients passive participants, either not caring or not wanting to know what happens to their bodies? Why do some find quality care and ethical treatment mutually exclusive?
Medical care already has monetary costs; does it need to have ethical costs as well? The truth is that it doesn’t. While my definition of respectful care may be different than others, most of us will probably agree that abuse is not a characterization of respectful care. Those who wish to sweep the Sparks controversy under the rug are ignorantly harming those who have trust and faith in the ethics of the medical system. Letting one doctor get away with abuse keeps the door open to the passive attitude that allows any doctor to get away with abuse.
Whatever truth lies in the Sparks controversy, no one should be willing (and ready) to trade respect for healthcare. One should certainly not believe that under anesthesia the body cannot be humiliated. No doubt many are wondering if they were part of a childish game led by a person who has no boundaries or moral compass. They may never really know, and certainly that is the scattered bones of abuse.
Hopefully the spotlight will remain on issues such as these, by a few champion posters, until ethics catches up with expectations.

© Suzy Furno-Maricle 2011