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The ethics of claiming you were called to assess Prince for addiction

I was shocked to hear that an addiction medicine specialist, Dr. Kornfeld whose clinic is coincidentally in my neck of the woods, has come forward (or rather had his lawyer come forward) claiming his team was assessing Prince for possible addiction therapy.

This is from the Minneapolis StarTribune:

Dr. Howard Kornfeld, a national authority on opioid addiction treatment, was called by Prince representatives the night of April 20 because Prince “was dealing with a grave medical emergency,” said William Mauzy, a prominent Minneapolis attorney working with the Kornfeld family.

The StarTribune goes on to say that Mauzy (the attorney) claims Dr. Kornfeld sent his son, Andrew Kornfeld, to “explain how the confidential treatment would work.”

Guess that confidentiality thing doesn’t matter after death?

According to the StarTribune, his son “had a small amount of buprenorphine to give to Prince. However, it was never administered.”

Hopefully they had plans for a local doctor to administer the medication because having someone who isn’t a doctor give a medical treatment on your order out-of-state isn’t something I would do.

This story has been picked up by essentially every news organization and there is no statement from Kornfeld’s camp saying it’s false, so I have to assume that Dr. Kornfeld was called by someone to consider treating Prince for alleged addiction.

This isn’t conjecture after TMZ gets a picture of Andrew Kornfeld leaving Paisley Park, this is the doctor’s attorney making a statement. Talk to the police, absolutely. They have an investigation and the information might be useful to them especially if Kornfeld junior really did discover Prince’s body, but to have your attorney make a statement that you were on a “lifesaving mission” to save Prince is, in my opinion, unethical. There is no HIPAA violation if no physician-patient relationship were established, but still it feels wrong.

If someone contacted me about treating a celebrity who had pain with sex and then the celebrity died before I spoke with them I couldn’t imagine saying a word to the press. If there were a criminal investigation I might contact the authorities and tell them what I knew, but that’s it.

In fact, I couldn’t imagine a situation when I would say anything about a potential patient to the press. In what world is it okay to say that you almost treated someone for addiction or for anything for that matter?

What could a physician who claims dedication to confidential treatment have to gain from releasing such a statement except publicity?

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Discussion

9 thoughts on “The ethics of claiming you were called to assess Prince for addiction

  1. Thanks for this. I agree completely. MD in MN

    Posted by annelippin | May 5, 2016, 2:51 pm
  2. Perhaps others will now know not to trust him.

    Posted by sweetsound | May 5, 2016, 3:46 pm
  3. My thought exactly. Kornfield will clean up when other potential patients start calling him. He’s into making a profit off Prince’s death (and we still don’t know what actually caused his death; pain pills on the body and in his home don’t prove anything) and the opiate “crisis.” Shame on them all.

    Posted by Wren | May 5, 2016, 6:52 pm
  4. This an incredibly delicate and difficult situation. I know no details of the events but I do know Howard Kornfeld. He has dedicated his life to understanding and helping people with pain, dependence and addiction. He is not seeking celebrity. He is humble and kind and knows more about these areas of medicine than nearly every other person on this planet. He has saved countless lives, including those of many underserved here in Alameda County. We are all heart broken by this loss. All of the conclusions in this article are antithetical to the person I have known for years and work side by side with treating those deemed untreatable by most. You are wrong.

    Posted by Amy Smith | May 5, 2016, 10:23 pm
    • No physician I know thinks it is acceptable to release a statement like this. We all also question the ethics and legality of sending your non Doctor son accords state lines with a schedule III drug.

      Good people can make bad decisions.

      It is likely this statement was a way of defending his

      Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | May 6, 2016, 5:49 am
  5. Reblogged this on Sasharose31's Blog.

    Posted by cannanurse420 | May 6, 2016, 6:00 am
  6. I’ve had similar thoughts. It’s as if he wants the notoriety but is too foolish to consider the message it gives to other potential clients. Why say anything to the public? If he was truly going to stave off s crisis, he’d have intervened six days prior.

    Posted by muffincatblog | July 3, 2016, 2:04 am
  7. He was dealing with his son being in custody at that point. He was acting as a parent, not a doctor. He was feeling guilty about getting his son into this nightmare in the first place. His son could see his dream of becoming a doctor like his father just disappear right in front of him.

    Posted by Paul Precient | August 27, 2016, 11:20 am

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