Last summer, Ether Easter wanted to see a doctor immediatly. She had been suffering from a hiatal hernia and it was causing her severe bruising to the stomach as well as blood in her urine. Easter was in constant excruciating pain do to her condition. She wanted nothing more than to have an operation and quickly at that.
Doctor Lyndon B. Johnson was the doctor who would be operating on her but he did not share the same sense of urgency as Easter. “well who do you think you are?” Easter recalled the doctor abruptly yelling back at her. “you’re gonna wait like everybody else.”
Easter later went to her family doctor where she would later be shocked about the notes taken on her. Johnson put red flags on Easters’ record noting that she has an attitude. “as if i was the problem,” Easter said in a phone interview with the Washington Post on Wednesday.
Easter was in too much pain to cancel the surgery with Johnson but she was very hesitant. Easter formulated the idea to record the audio during the surgery. This is because she felt she could not trust her surgeon. In fear that she would not make it out of the operating room Easter snuck a small USB sized recorder into the operating room during her operation. Easter inserted the recorder in her hair while changing into her operation gown.
After Easter was sedated, the surgeon recounted their dispute to the other doctors. “She’s a handful,” he said in the recording. “She had some choice words for us in the clinic when we didn’t book her case in two weeks.”
“She said, ‘I’m going to call a lawyer and file a complaint,’” he recalled with a laugh. (Easter said she never mentioned a lawyer.)
“That doesn’t seem like the thing to say to the person who’s going to do your surgery,” another male voice retorted.
The comments afterwards became personal. The surgeon and the anesthesioligist repeatedly referred to her belly button in jest. “Did you see her belly button?” one doctor said, followed by peals of laughter.
At another point in the procedure, the anesthesiologist appeared to refer to Easter as “always the queen,” to which the surgeon responded, “I feel sorry for her husband.”
The surgeon also used the name “Precious” several times in a manner that Easter interpreted as racial.
“Precious, yes, this is Precious over here, saying hi to Precious over there,” he can be heard saying in the recording, though it is unclear whom he is addressing. Moments later, he asked: “What do her eyes look like? You know the eyes are the windows to the soul.”
After the doctors concurred that there had been many “teaching moments” that day, the anesthesiologist asked, “Do you want me to touch her?”
“I can touch her,” the surgeon is heard saying.
“That’s a Bill Cosby suggestion,” someone interjected. “Everybody’s got things on phones these days. Everybody’s got a camera.”
“Do you have photos?” the surgeon asked a couple times. “[indiscernible] thought about it, but I didn’t do it.”
Most of the dialogue was difficult to understand but Easter was concerned about the subject matter. She thought “Precious” might be an allusion to the 2009 movie of the same name, chronicling the life of an illiterate African American teenager who suffers childhood abuse.
“He called me Precious, an African American obese woman who was raped by her father,” Easter told The Post. She also thought the comments about “touching” and Bill Cosby were suggestive, and according to her, the surgeon said: “I thought about touching her. I could take pictures.”
“To think that I’m lying there,” Easter said, “and they’re talking about touching me inappropriately. Sexually.”
These actions deeply frightened Easter and she could not believe that the professionals were speaking about her in such a disrespectful manner.
These doctors were definitely not acting within the boundaries of the doctor and patient relationship. According to Bayles in this relationship doctors take on the role of the agent. The agent acts in direction of the client. There are unfair advantages in this model though. The biggest injustice in this relationship would be the doctor has more knowledge. This puts him at unfair advantage over Easter. The way the doctors were speaking about Easter is if they were a part of a friendship model.
In the friendship model power should be distributed equally. This relationship is more so friendship than business. This is the manner in which the doctors were behaving. The bad part about it is that the two parties are not friends. This means that the doctors were conducting themselves in avery unethical manner.