OP-ED

A Few More Minutes with Andy Rooney

“I died last week, just a month after I said goodbye to you all from this very desk. I had a long and happy life – well, as happy as a cranky old guy could ever be. 92. Not bad. And gotta say, seeing my Margie, and Walter, and all my old friends again is great.

But then I read what killed me: ‘serious complications following minor surgery.’

Now what the heck is that?

Nobody gets run over by a ‘serious complication.’ You don’t hear about a guy getting shot in the chest with a ‘serious complication.’ Sure, I didn’t expect to live forever (well, maybe only a little bit), but I was sorta going for passing out some Saturday night into my strip steak at that great restaurant on Broadway. Maybe nodding off in my favorite chair, dreaming of reeling in a 40-pound striper. You know, not waking up. This whole ‘death by complication’ thing is just so, I don’t know … vague and annoying.

Here’s something else that bothers me. This note I got a few days ago from a lady who says she’s a fan. She talked to a reporter at a national newspaper the other day. Asked the reporter, basically, what kind of complication ‘’did me in’? The reporter said ‘No idea what killed him. Unless someone dies unusually young, we don’t deal with the cause of death.’

Now I know reporters have lots to do. I was one myself before they started paying me to just say what I think. But I guess what this reporter means is, if I was 29 instead of 92, they mighta thought it was worth asking why I went in for minor surgery and died of ‘serious complications.’

Remember a guy named John Murtha? A Congressman. Democrat from Pennsylvania. He made it to 77, a real spring chicken next to me. We were talking about this the other day, and guess what he told me? He went in the hospital last year to get his gallbladder taken out. A tiny incision, they said. Laparascopic surgery. Only he died, too. The reason, you guessed it: ‘complications of surgery.’ The docs looked really sad about it but they wouldn’t give out any details. They said they couldn’t, because of family privacy, and federal privacy laws. But you know, people talk. Someone on the inside came out with it: ‘they hit his intestines.’

John figures it’s better that people know what happened. Maybe it’ll help docs figure out a way not to hit intestines when they do that surgery next time. Now what’s wrong with that?

I know what you’re thinking. That Andy Rooney – something’s always bugging him. Well, I guess it’s like my mom told me a zillion years ago, when she asked me at dinner if I knew anything about how the window in the garage got broken. I said no because I didn’t want to admit I’d been throwing a baseball with Tommy McNamara, and I guess my aim was really off. She looked at me with that look moms have … the one that makes you squirm and try to change the subject and finally offer to do the dishes if only she’ll stop looking at you like that. She said ‘Andy, just tell the truth.’

So … do me a favor. Something killed me. And it would be good to know what. You don’t have to squirm, or do the dishes.

Just tell folks what happened.”

Pat Mastors is President and CEO of Pear Health LLC. She lost her father in 2006 from “complications of surgery.”

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Ivor
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Ivor

@DeterminedMD, “fit the agenda of the commentors who are holding those pitchforks and torches looking for doctors in the night”. Hmm I wonder why I feel annoyed ? Perhaps its the condescending attitude to my torch and pitch fork .. we English do not have access to guns so the pitchfork and torch serve my elderly needs. Its the attitude .. the bedside manner .. we know best dismissal. There are many Doctors who deserve a pitchfork .. you know where. I personally have been damaged on three occasions by what I am led to believe are routine procedures .,… Read more »

DeterminedMD
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DeterminedMD

Anyone want to start a pool to bet on when the day will be we find out the specifics to Mr Rooney’s reason for passing away? Don’t expect to hear those details if they don’t fit the agenda of the commentors who are holding those pitchforks and torches looking for doctors in the night.

Hey, people write pieces like this, I think we are entitled to hear the truth when allegations of impropriety are being made up front!

John Ballard
Guest

People, people, lighten up. By the time I got to the second sentence I enjoyed the heck out of this post. I know death is serious and usually sad, but it is the one common final experience for all mankind. But just because we all have an appointment with the angel of death that doesn’t mean we should all think alike. It is a mistake to presume everyone will respond the same to this little skit. Or should. Frankly, I think Andy Rooney is responding by laughing his ass off. My take on the situation is more nuanced, something like… Read more »

Michael Millenson
Guest

Dear Southern Doc: Your nastiness is only matched by your stupidity. And, unlike you, I don’t hide behind a fake name. How dare you call this an “invasion of privacy”? Rooney is a public figure and Pat used that to write a satirical piece making the point that we need to know more about medical errors. His death, and its cause, was public. You might say it’s no one’s business but the family’s to know more than that — that would be fair. You might say the post is completely off-base, as others have — that would be fair. But… Read more »

southern doc
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southern doc

You couldn’t find a cause of death because the family has chosen not to reveal it. Your contempt for their privacy is appalling.

Pat
Guest

I have reached out to the family to apologize and asked if they’d like the post removed.

Pat
Guest

Margalit, The last thing I would want to do is be hurtful to a family in the loss of a loved one, and if that’s what happened, my most profound apologies. Andy Rooney had the gift of making me, for one, feel like I knew him, and though I never had the pleasure of meeting him, was greatly saddened at his loss. In my patient advocacy work I’ve met with many families with similar stories (where cause of adverse events is not shared), and who devote much of their lives to improving outcomes and disclosure for others. I did scour… Read more »

Margalit Gur-Arie
Guest

Ms. Mastors, Did it ever occur to you that coming across a piece like this (“I died last week, just a month after I said goodbye to you… seeing my Margie, and Walter, and all my old friends again is great”) could be very painful for someone who lost a dear family member a few weeks ago? What makes you think that you can speak for Mr. Rooney post mortem? Were you best friends? Soul mates? Did you even meet him once? Those who were closest to Mr. Rooney, have made their wishes crystal clear: “The Rooney family asks that… Read more »

DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

It is the antiphysician trolling, literally in this case, for dollars at hand. Ok, let’s put it out there again, why are 92 year old people having elective surgery, unless they fully foot the bill? Can anyone in this country come to the conclusion it is rather ridiculous and selfish to be expecting to live full lives after 75 or so?! Hey, I’m going to be calling it a day about that age. For every person who has a full quality of life after 75, at least 4 to 5 people at the same time that age are really struggling… Read more »