Sunday, June 12, 2016

When stars seek medical care, risk of 'VIP Syndrome' looms | US |

One doctor delivered test results to Prince's home. Another sent his son, who wasn't a physician, on a cross-country flight to bring medication to the music star.

It's not clear if any doctor could have averted the fentanyl overdose that killed the singer in April. But his death may offer evidence for how the special treatment often afforded the rich and famous can result in worse health care than ordinary Americans receive. It's a pattern identified in medical literature as early as 1964 and it has a name: "VIP Syndrome."

Experts agree that doctors treating Michael Jackson and Joan Rivers lost their bearings and made fatal mistakes in the glare of their patients' fame. Eleanor Roosevelt is another example.

"There are a number of red flags that go up," said Dr. Robert Klitzman, who directs Columbia University's bioethics master's program. "Prince was one of the wealthiest musicians alive. Did he get appropriate care? VIP Syndrome may have been involved."

First described by Dr. Walter Weintraub of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in a 1964 paper, VIP Syndrome is shorthand for how the influence of wealth and the allure of fame can cause doctors to veer into risky territory when they cater to the demands of a star or his entourage.

Stars may reject medical advice or demand ineffective or harmful treatments. Star-struck doctors may order unnecessary tests or not enough tests. Hospital administrators may meddle in decisions if the patient is a potential financial donor.

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