Storytelling, a follow-up
VOLOKH at LAW.UCLA.EDU
Wed Aug 20 15:52:14 PDT 1997
I apologize in advance, because this is not really on-topic;
but it struck me as a good follow-up to our discussion two weeks
ago on anecdotal evidence.
When I was debating about race-based affirmative action, I'd
often hear the story of Alan Bakke and Patrick Chavis, who
supposedly took Bakke's place at Davis. Bakke, it was said, ended
up a part-time anesthesiologist in a rich suburb. Chavis dedicated
his life to serving poor people in the inner city.
This always struck me as a remarkably nonsensical argument;
one such example means absolutely nothing, and I do mean really,
nothing, about the merits of race-based affirmative action. Zero,
nada, zip -- no relevance at all. Still, the argument was popular;
I give you two in-print samples, the latter one cowritten by Connie
Rice, who I believe runs NAACP litigation here in Southern
California, and Tom Hayden, the well-known ex-radical politician.
"The ultimate wisdom of affirmative action is the
fascinating footnote that real life has bestowed on the
Bakke decision. Allan Bakke, admitted to medical school
as a result of the lawsuit, is an anesthesiologist in
Rochester, Minn. Patrick Chavis -- the black son of a
welfare mother who had been admitted with lower scores
than Mr. Bakke -- is a gynecologist serving poor Medicaid
mothers in southern California. The social advantages of
diversity continue to reverberate after graduation."
Editorial, "Affirming Affirmative Action," St. Louis
Dispatch, Apr. 12, 1996, at 16C.
"A case in point is Dr. Allan Bakke himself. Bakke, the
white male graduate of U.C. Davis Medical School who sued
to eliminate that institution's sixteen seats for
minorities, ended up with a part-time anesthesiology
practice in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Patrick Chavis,
the African-American who allegedly `took Bakke's place'
in medical school, has a huge OB/GYN practice providing
primary care to poor women in predominantly minority
Compton. Bakke's scores were higher, but who made the
most of his medical school education? From whom did
California taxpayers benefit more?" Connie Rice & Tom
Hayden, "California Cracks its Mortaboards," The Nation,
Sept. 18, 1995, at 264.
Now, recent news from the June 20, 1997 L.A. Times, "Doctor's
License is Suspended," at B1:
"An administrative law judge ordered the emergency
suspension of a Lynwood obstetrician's medical license
Thursday, finding that he was grossly negligent and
unprofessional in his care of three liposuction patients,
one of whom bled to death last June hours after an
operation. Dr. Patrick Chavis' conduct `demonstrates an
inability to perform some of the most basic duties
required of a physician,' Judge Samuel D. Reyes wrote in
an 11-page decision released two days after a hearing on
the matter. `His failure in this regard, although
occurring only with lipectomy patients, is so fundamental
that it evidences the inability to safely practice in
other areas of medicine.' . . .
"Jimmy Cotton, husband of the patient who bled to death,
said the judge's decision was just the first step in a
`long walk' to justice. . . . Cotton, who accompanied
his healthy, 43-year-old wife, Tammaria, to Chavis'
office on the day of her surgery, said he became frantic
as her condition worsened, and was stunned by her death.
Chavis is accused of abandoning Tammaria Cotton, groggy
and bleeding in his office, to check on another gravely
injured liposuction patient suffering alone at his
Compton home. Cotton was later pronounced dead at a
local hospital. A third patient allegedly lost 70% of
her blood after May 1996 liposuction surgery."
To my knowledge, this is the same Patrick Chavis; he has been
reported as the same one in the media, and Lynwood is indeed in
South Central Los Angeles. It seems to me unlikely that there
would be two different Patrick Chavises practicing as obstetricians
in South Central L.A. (I also recognize that the medical license
review process is fallible, but I'm willing to presume that the ALJ
What does Chavis's misconduct teach us? Of course, absolutely
nothing -- exactly as tales of Chavis's public-spiritedness taught
us absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing except what we should have
known all along, which is the folly of drawing general conclusions
from individual incidents.
Perhaps, then, this is a useful story to tell would-be
storytellers; purely as a cautionary tale, of course, and not laying
any claims to generalizability.
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the limits of liability . . . shall be governed UCLA Law School
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