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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

"Openly practicing medicine" revealed, "scandalous material" concealed

Milwaukee Archdiocese bankrupcy, Madison protests and doctors, "crime" and punishment

This is a tale of two sets of records, one released and one sealed.

The headlines read 20 doctors disciplined for sick notes and Bishops’ testimony to remain sealed. You probably know the cases—the first, doctors who scribbled health excuses for protesters in Madison in February 2011, the second, the sexual abuse testimony of Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese past leaders in a current bankruptcy trial.

The records about discipline for 20 doctors were released through an open records request by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Hands were slapped and fines were collected for the decision to “openly practice medicine at the State Capitol, while intentionally avoiding the creation of a medical record.” For this choice, in violation of professional practice ethics, the UW Medical School faculty and residents who were involved had pay docked, received formal letters of reprimand, and were ordered to attend an ethics workshop.

The punishment seems appropriate to me, though state Senator Grothman of West Bend was sorely disappointed. He'd been hoping for much stiffer penalties, he said, wishing they’d been suspended without pay for months at very least. Senator Grothman is very big on sternness and punishing people. Perhaps he will introduce a bill to bring back the stocks and put folks in them around the Capitol Square during the coming farmer’s market season. No signing of notes with your hands clamped like that, and eggs are plentiful this time of year.

Whether you agree or disagree with the sufficiency of the punishment, the story’s out for all to see and pick apart. Every detail.

The decision of Judge Susan Kelley to keep closed the deposition records of former Archbishop Weakland, Bishop Sklba, and an unnamed “defrocked priest” is more complicated. The trial’s about bankruptcy, and the judge maintained that the material is so disturbing, with so much risk to the victims of priestly sexual abuse who want to remain anonymous, that they must be kept sealed. What’s more, the resulting furor would distract from the otherwise dry and merely unpleasant financial  proceedings.

My heart is with the victims, those who survived and those who did not, psychologically and spiritually. With both those who filed the motion to release the records and those who are praying no information about them will see the light.

And while I believe in the sunshine principle, I’m inclined to think the judge made the right decision. Protecting the most vulnerable should take precedence. What punishment there is here should be meted out to the offenders only.

I wonder what circle of hell punishment Senator Grothman would envision for the priest-predators. If he found them as disturbing as doctors signing notes and single parents, that is.

I have one in mind myself, and it’s not pretty.

Disclosure: I work for the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. I don't know any of the doctors involved in this, I did not write this on the University's time, and my opinion is strictly my own, not theirs.

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