"It's absolutely true...it's all there in the medical records."
- Flagstaff physician regarding Leslye Kincade's story
A doctor speaks out
against the system
The Sedona Observer will be reviewing Leslye Anne Piper's medical records as part of its investigation of local health care allegations. Meanwhile, we spoke with several doctors who said they were familiar with the case to get a professional medical perspective: Could Leslye Anne Piper's death have been averted?
The answer we got from these doctors was a resounding "YES." We did not receive responses yet from those who disagree.
The doctors we spoke with were unwilling to go on the record for obvious reasons, explaining how the current medical system punishes those who report alleged violations.
Still, all expressed grave concern about the case and most agreed that there are still many unanswered questions. Others stated suspicions of "negligence" or "malpractice" regarding the case.
One physician, in particular, who had reviewed the case in detail agreed to offer his comments anonymously due to his growing "concern and frustration with the local medical system."
Here's what he alleges in response to Leslye Kincade's story:
I had goose bumps up and down my back when I first reviewed this case. I knew something was terribly, terribly wrong.
It's absolutely true. It's all there in Leslye Anne Piper's medical records. It was so clearly obvious that she had Preeclampsia and yet she was never referred to a specialist. Instead, she was referred to a doctor who never had the credentials advertised by the affiliated hospital. It's outrageous.
The symptoms were evident in her chart. Just read the doctor's notes and you'll see it's clearly documented. Leslye Anne Piper had all the signs, including fluctuating blood pressure, swelling and blue lips, to warrant a specialist's care for her Preeclampsia.
The records show her heart was already working 50 percent harder than normal during her pregnancy. Yet they gave her trebutaline, a medication that's known to be contraindicated for people with her condition.
As a result, the medication made her heart work another 25 percent harder, at a rate approximately 150 times faster than the normal heart rate. And nobody could see that?
Every one of her organs was full of water and swollen three to five times their normal size, which places enormous pressure on the heart. She couldn't get enough oxygen - it was absolutely horrendous.
"It all points to a money trail.
They balance their books on
the backs of little kids."
- Flagstaff physician
It was all documented - the ungodly fluctuations in blood pressure and body temperature that indicated she was at death's door. And, sure, it was reported to the medical board - the charts, the fact that the doctor wasn't a periontologist like the hospital claims he is, and the fact that this patient never got the specialist she needed. Why did they all get away with it?
Because they all protect each other and the hospital that doesn't want to spend the money to support the payments for the right doctors.
The hospital should have a periontologist in the neonatal intensive care unit on call 24/7, but it doesn't. They just don't maintain the properly credentialed staff according to state laws. That's why they lost their JCAHO accreditation three years ago.
Federal funding is supposed to provide for a specialist, but they don't want to pay for it. The hospital would simply rather put the money in the CEO's pockets. It all points to a money trail. They balance their books on the backs of little kids.
How do they get away with it? It's all who you know. It's all about medical laws, and it's all about money. What happened to Leslye Anne's missing EKG in her medical records? Well, it was performed at the hospital. What does that tell you?
The doctor in Leslye Anne's case was sanctioned by the Arizona Medical Board in 2003 for delivering an infant while intoxicated. Yet the hospital still posts him on the wall in its public corridors as a periontologist, which he is not.
It's a classic case of money over patients. The hospital is above the law, and it's mind-boggling. This is something that needs further examination by the media.
READ DIAGNOSIS: DISASTROUS
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Remembering Leslye Anne Piper
A soul, not just another statistic
Who was Leslye Anne Piper? What is the world missing without her, other than the obvious wife and mother?
Leslye Anne was a "spitfire girl." That’s how people described her.
She would tell you if you were wrong and why, but she would also give someone the benefit of the doubt if she didn't quite agree with them.
Leslye Anne would also give a person the clothes off of her back if she thought it would encourage them to do better.
One example of this is when she went to Chino High School in the mid-1990's. The administration would call upon her if they were having any trouble with another student whom they felt she could explain better or help the student to listen to another way of thinking.
Leslye Anne adored her three wonderful children; the youngest one only had her for a few days. Her family was her pride and joy.
She and her husband, James, liked to go camping, hiking, fishing and even hunting at times. She was very involved in an organization focused on the Renaissance era, often making her own costumes and dresses for her oldest daughter for the festivals.
Leslye Anne loved dealing with the underdog, helping to build their egos and teach them things they needed to learn. She had friends from all walks of life.
She will not be forgotten.
James and Leslye Anne Piper with their children James Jr. and Leslye Marie at the Renaissance Festival.
Continued from the Front Page
A Mother's Heartbreak
Leslye Anne Piper
May 15, 1981 - October 11, 2005
How many more will we lose needlessly?
Multiple doctors; no help
“In the middle of September, the third doctor was going to induce labor and try to relieve my daughter’s pain. The other doctor said that she was going to have to wait another week.
On September 23, I asked the second doctor ‘what was the problem with them inducing her sooner since the third doctor was willing to do it on his day off.’ Her reply to me was, “Is she dying?” This statement would turn out to be a chilling prophecy.
The doctors started inducing labor on September 29. The following day they decided that she wasn’t progressing enough, so they decided to do a cesarean section. They delivered my granddaughter Jazmen on October 1, 2005, at 2:30 am.
Leslye Anne was so proud of her daughter. She kept saying that she finally had a child that looked like her and that everyone would definitely know it was hers. Leslye Anne’s color, however, still wasn’t what it should have been, and I was still scared. They released her on October 4.”
The final fatal week
“On Monday, October 10, Leslye Anne called the doctor to report that she was having trouble with severe chest pain. But they were so busy that they couldn’t get her in until Thursday, October 13. She didn’t go to the emergency room because she figured it couldn’t be too serious. After all, the way the medical staff made her feel is that it was all in her head anyway.
The next day, my husband and I couldn’t get Leslye Anne to answer the phone. Finally, when our 21-month-old grandson told us she was sleeping, I knew there was something wrong.
When we arrived at the home, I went straight to her room and started screaming to my husband, “She isn’t breathing!” She had already been gone for over an hour.
On October 11, 2005, Leslye Anne Piper was dead.
Her baby was only 10 days old; her son was 21 months; and her eldest daughter was only 6 years old at the time. She never made it to her scheduled doctor’s appointment two days later.”
Leslye Anne Piper with her newborn daughter Jazmen,
husband James and daughter Leslye Marie, just days
before her untimely death.
“At the time, Flagstaff didn’t have a coroner. It took them from October 11, 2005, until March 21, 2006, to find the cause of supposed death. The final conclusion was ‘acute respiratory failure due to pulmonary edema due to bronchial asthma.’ Wow!
Leslye Anne didn’t have asthma that bad. She always kept her medication by her bed but wasn’t using it and had no medication in her system at the time. Anyone who has ever dealt with asthma knows that you don’t just go to sleep peacefully. Leslye Anne did.
What we found after Leslye Anne passed away was that she had actually told several people that she felt one of the doctors was trying to kill her. As absurd as it may sound, this coincides with the fact that the female obstetrician had asked me, ‘Is she dying?’ I have proof of that as well.”
Physician or charlatan?
“We have another daughter who was also pregnant and seeing the same doctor. Since we started hearing things about this doctor, I decided to start checking them out.
What I found was horrific! The doctor we originally thought was a perinatologist turned out to be a gynecologist. He did not have a degree in the field of medicine that he was professing, nor as the hospital was advertising this doctor to be!
We also learned of several other people who had complained about things that he did or did not do. There were actually 45 complaints issued against him within five years, including probation by the medical board for being intoxicated during the delivery of an infant. Yet the hospital would not discipline him in the manner that they were supposed to and never reported it to the state of Arizona.
We were told to contact some people and they would explain the truth about this doctor and the things that he was accused of. My whole family was just astonished that he would be allowed to practice medicine at all!”
“Since all of this has happened, we have found out that this doctor has supposedly almost seriously hurt or almost killed other patients. He was never reported to the state for any accountability. The hospital administration would suspend him for only 29 days and then reinstate him on the 30th day, just to start his suspension over again for another 29 days.
My husband and I are painfully aware of certain medical records that have either been modified or completely removed from our daughter’s chart. I was always there when anything was done, and some of the things are nowhere to be found, such as the EKG.
"The system is geared to kill you,
not to save you."
Joe Kincade, Leslye Anne's father
We found out that the doctor had already been at the medical records office within a month after Leslye Anne’s death to go through her file and now some of the records are missing.
We also learned that the doctor who was on the hospital administration and who told the nurses not to call the supposed periontologist was forced into retirement instead of being charged with ordering a gynecologist. Apparently he did that because it would have cost the hospital more money to call in the specialist.
Leslye Anne should’ve been sent to a Phoenix hospital for proper care but they didn’t do that because it would detract from their own income.This information only adds to our pain.”
Legal dead end
“We worked with two lawyers who couldn’t come up with direct evidence of any wrongdoing. They said there was a case of possible neglect but couldn’t prove it in a court of law because it wasn’t clear-cut enough for the current laws.
They also couldn’t pinpoint the link between Preeclampsia and her cause of death because of the way the cause was written on the death certificate. The medical examiner blamed it on asthma yet she wasn’t diagnosed with any asthmatic symptoms during her pregnancy or suffering from them at the time of her death.
When a doctor and hospital profess to be something and they’re proven not to be what they say, they should be held accountable in a court of law. Right now such matters fall under administrative law instead of criminal law because the hospital is federally funded.
I’d like to see that corrected so Leslye Anne’s death wasn’t for nothing.”
“The medical investigator wrote the doctor a letter stating that he didn’t do anything wrong with the surgery (which I never stated) and that they should not hold him accountable for any possible neglect or malpractice.
This leads me to wonder if all of them – the doctor, the hospital and the medical investigator – work hand-in-hand to cover each other. Leslye Anne was previously diagnosed with Preeclampsia, yet none of them addressed that this was completely ignored and labeled as a psychological problem.
In fact, at the time of her death, she was working with a Preeclampsia advocacy organization to help women recognize their symptoms and learn how to get them diagnosed – something she was unable to do for herself with her own doctor.”
Leslye Kincade has lessons she wants to share with others:
“We need to start learning, doing our own research and investigating complaints. Don’t assume that your doctor always knows what he’s talking about. Keep asking until you’re content with the answers or go get a second opinion. And check out his background.
Unfortunately, we trust our medical doctors and institutions implicitly. But, despite the fact that there are so many wonderful doctors, Leslye Anne is the perfect example of how blindly we trust all our doctors, just like we trusted this one. Your life can be at stake – just like hers. People need to pay attention to what's going on.
I’ve lost too much and just can’t take anyone’s word anymore. Leslye Anne has taught me to be a lot smarter. I just hope no one else ever has to suffer the way our family did.”
As a result of what happened, Leslye Kincade is pursuing studies in criminal justice and forensic science. She is "determined to to pursue legislation to make doctors and hospitals stand accountable for false advertising claims and guidelines and negligent practices" — not as a vindication of her daughter's death, but "to protect innocent people."
This, then, is Leslye Anne Piper's legacy — her gift to the world.
As this newspaper continues to receive a flow of letters from people reporting the high price of health care, we wonder about the real cost to our society - human lives like Leslye Anne's. Certainly, people should not have to suffer this caliber of needless pain and suffering due to hospital and insurance company greed or the detachment of leaders who never fear this level of personal or financial loss.
Leslye Anne’s untimely death certainly leaves us with many lingering doubts and haunting questions. Still, the medical authorities have firmly ruled out any possibility of negligence or malpractice. No attorney has proceeded to further examine the evidence. And Leslye Anne’s doctor still continues to practice in another part of the state after he receiving a temporary suspension.
The Sedona Observer delivered calls and e-mails to the medical authorities involved in Leslye Anne's case but did not receive any response as of press time. We still welcome their input on this story for our next issue and will provide them with equal space to offer their perspectives because we want to hear their side. We want to know how Leslye Anne's blue lips were all "inside her head" in case we have overlooked anything.
Since we are, after all, a nation that upholds "innocence before proven guilty," this newspaper does not want to point any unjust fingers. Like medicine, our oath reflects an intention to "do no harm." While Leslye Kincade's story represents an allegation, journalism also has a moral responsibility to examine the facts to find the truth. Therefore, our code of ethics compels us to review the evidence in cases such as this - medical records, doctors' backgrounds, hospital policies and medical laws - and ask the tough tenets of our trade: who, what, when, where, how and why.
Due to the severe symptoms documented on Leslye Anne's medical records - extreme swelling, breathlessness, fluctuating pulse and blood pressure, bluish lips, Preeclampsia and even a prior EKG suggestive of a "heart attack" - we must ask:
WHO removed the EKG report from Leslye Anne's medical record file?
WHAT legal loophole allows the hospital to override medical laws requiring it to maintain a staff periontologist on call for its neonatal intensive care unit?
WHEN should proper medical intervention been taken to address her obvious symptoms and deteriorating condition?
WHERE was common medical sense in the face of blue lips, swelling and other alarming symptoms and HOW could they be labeled "all in her head"? Are the physical challenges associated with pregnancy often misdiagnosed as a psychological problem?
HOW many other female symptoms, such as menopause or hormonal imbalances, are incorrectly mislabeled as mental or emotional?
HOW is it that Leslye Anne's call for an appointment to address her chest pain on the day of her death was scheduled for four days later?
HOW many women are currently receiving neonatal care by Leslye Anne's former doctor without knowing he has received 45 complaints in five years and is not a periontologist?
WHY was there no further investigation conducted by the medical board or sanction served to the doctor responsible for Leslye Anne's care?
WHY is the hospital still portraying the gynecologist as a periontologist on its board of medical staff in public corridors of the facility when he is not?
WHY is he still allowed to practice when the Arizona Medical Board Web site lists him on June 11, 2003 as "Degree of Censure with five-year probation" for "unprofessional conduct (impaired while delivering infant...)" and "participate in rehab program"? Does anyone want to entrust his or her care to a physician who's been in rehab?
Other questions prompt us to look even deeper:
What do we need to be looking at in our current health care system - from hospital policies and elitist or arrogant medical indifference ?
What needs to be healed in health care and the "business" of medicine - hospital advertising and PR campaigns in the face of overbooked clinics, overwhelmed nurses and backed up emergency rooms, hospital CEO salaries and bonuses, and so on?
What do we need to change within ourselves as individuals in our approach to doctors, insurers, hospitals and medical authorities? Do we need to trust the system less and ask more questions? Certainly we need to speak up in our medical examinations, request alternatives. And we need to stop kow-towing to insurance billers, hospital collection agencies and other jackals hounding us for our last dime after we've buried our dead.
The one question that really haunts me is whether staggering emergency room costs prevented Leslye Anne from calling for help in the hours before her death. Why didn't she call 911? Or did her heart stop functioning so quickly that she never even had time to pick up the phone?
Certainly, had the doctors' offices and clinics not been so jammed, she would have been seen - and probably still with us today. No matter what went wrong or how hard we try to find something to blame for her death, it all points to the BUSINESS of health care instead of the PRACTICE of medicine.
For now, the Kincades and the Pipers continue to wonder in silent anguish as they live with their grief and the memory of Leslye Anne – their mother, wife and daughter – who is gone forever.
This is the first time they have stepped forward to publicly share their painful experience. We commend them for their courage to question and to speak out while we deeply sympathize with their tremendous loss. After all, it could happen to any of us.
Meanwhile, 2-year-old Jazmen, who knew her mother for only the first few days of her life, still asks, "When is Mommy coming home?"
Catherine J. Rourke
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Views and statements expressed here represent allegations from the public and not the editorial stance of this newspaper. The Sedona Observer abides by media law and upholds the time-honored policies of the Journalism Code of Ethics. It publishes all opinions under the First Amendment and welcomes those with opposing views to submit letters and testimonials.