These charges are very serious and in response, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation, the UW Health entities that employ the physicians, have immediately launched an investigation of the reported behavior.It's good politics and good public relations to take this seriously, of course, but I think the outcome is predictable.
The investigation will identify which UW Health physicians were involved and whether their behavior constituted violations of medical ethics or University of Wisconsin and UW Health policies and work rules....I don't know the details of the rules or medical ethics, nor do I have any inside information about the way my university handles such things. But I know how the doctors defended themselves when I confronted them, and I think their explanation will be accepted.
They said they were really "seeing" the individuals who asked for notes, and they individually listened to their "patients" reports about what their symptoms were. I had a longer conversation with a second doctor and, like the one I interview on camera, he had his approach to ethics down pat: Doctors providing notes for employees accept their patients' statements about what their symptoms are all the time, and the people they spoke to on the street really did mention symptoms, such as headache, diarrhea, insomnia, and — notably — stress (including stress from the budget plan and the protests). This puts this within the range of something doctors routinely do.
I'm not saying that's the right resolution, but I predict that will be the result of the investigation, perhaps with a public-appeasing, forward-looking statement that doctors ought to avoid the appearance of impropriety by refraining from this activity in the future.