Monday, February 6, 2012

Frayed Ribbons

While I long ago forgot the name of the case - and the name of the orthopedic surgeon from whom the testimony was elicited - on a cold, rainy winter Saturday a lifetime ago I was required to spend my morning at the office of a Board-certified orthopedic surgeon. The purpose of the get-together was not medical but legal. The doctor was the expert medical witness for the plaintiff in a case I was defending for a municipality in Passaic County. The plaintiff needed to preserve his trial testimony and since the doctor's schedule made it impossible for him to appear in court, that preservation was accomplished through the wonders of videotape.

On that rainy, cold Saturday morning a lifetime ago, I gathered with my adversary, his doctor and my two co-defendants. During his cross-examination (skillfully handled by one of my co-defendants on behalf of all three of us), the expert was asked whether the plaintiff's injury was "permanent". He responded by telling us that "permanent" means different things legally and medically. With respect to the former, his answer was "No" and he explained that in his opinion although his patient (the plaintiff) had fallen and broken her hip, she had been treated appropriately, had applied herself enthusiastically to the course of physical therapy he had prescribed for her post-operatively and had made a complete recovery. Thus, in his opinion, the injury had not left her with a permanent disability.

He then told us that with respect to the latter, the answer was "Yes". His explanation was simple. Her injury was a broken hip. Once a bone is broken, it is never the same. It may heal. It may heal completely and fully. But it will never be "unbroken" again. And since it shall never unbroken again, it shall never be that which it once was. Thus, medically speaking, it was a permanent injury.

I thought about that doctor, that case and that explanation quite a bit the latter half of last week as the people who run the Susan G. Komen Foundation tiptoed through the mine field of public opinion. Apparently towards the end of 2011 the Foundation decided that it would not extend any grant money in 2012 (and beyond presumably) to Planned Parenthood, which has been a recipient of Komen Foundation grant money in years past, including 2011. The stated reason for the change in the relationship between two of the most well-known champions of womens' health issues? An ongoing Federal investigation into Planned Parenthood.

The Komen Foundation declared publicly (after Planned Parenthood "outed" it and its decision to not award any 2012 grant money to Planned Parenthood) that its decision was not motivated by political pressure from the far right of the political spectrum. Rather its decision was politics-neutral and guided solely by the fact that Planned Parenthood is under Federal investigation. Whether its stated reason for its decision was legitimate or total bullshit mattered not in the court of public opinion. The Komen Foundation was pilloried from coast-to-coast.

And then something amazing happened. Much like America's most famous groundhog, the people at the Komen Foundation saw the light. Last Friday, again declaring that its decision was not the direct result of political pressure applied like a sleeper hold (as somewhere the late, great Chief Jay Strongbow smiles) - this time from the left side of the political spectrum the Foundation reversed field. Planned Parenthood was once again deemed worthy of applying for - and receiving - grant money from the Komen Foundation.

It has been said that any landing you can walk away from is a happy landing and using that as our guide, I suppose the folks from the Komen Foundation stuck the landing. Since June 2009 when Margaret's mom died our family has been out there on the front line of the war against breast cancer. We have - through the creation of Sue's Crew and its three incarnations to date that have competed in the South and Central Jersey chapter's Race for the Cure - raised thousands of dollars and donated countless hours. While I know that the decisions made and then unmade by the muckety mucks at the top of the Foundation's food chain were in fact NOT made by the good people who run the South and Central Jersey Chapter, it is impossible for me to look at them - to look at any of them - the same way.

Breaks heal. But they are not "never broken". Simply reaching the right result is not always good enough. More is expected. As it should be....

Where the sky begins, the horizon ends
Despite the best intentions.
And a big ol' man goes up for sale
He becomes his own invention.
Oh, the days go slow into the changing season
Oh, bought and sold, for all the wrong reasons....


-AK

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