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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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What would you think if you got a letter from a former physical therapist that reads, in part: “I am writing to all past and present patients to introduce you to a good opportunity… If you have been considering investments … I recommend you call Joe Smith at Plorgan Smanley. I am enclosing his card. He is offering a free 30-minute consultation. He’s very knowledgeable… most importantly, you can trust him.”

Would you think, “Oh, how helpful of you, former physical therapist! I had not previously considered these 'investments' you speak of, but now that you tell me I can trust this person, I want to give him all of my hard-earned cash!” Or would you think, “Holy Jesus, that’s icky”?

As you may have guessed, this Actually Happened to Me. Can you believe it? My life, it is one of high drama.

Is it just me, or is this not something a medical professional should do? Isn't this one step above or below or to the left of selling your patient list? What the hell could have been her motivation? I have a hard time believing that out of the goodness of her heart, this therapist felt compelled to send letters to every one of her "past and present patients." Actually, I don't know if this makes this worse or better, but I seem to remember her gabbing about her husband, and the first name of this financial advisor sounds awfully ... familiar.

I’m not sure if I’m overreacting, because I have been, shall we say, unhappy with this former p.t. of mine. Because she took lots and lots of my money, while assuring me that I had a pain syndrome that would never go away, ever ever ever. Because she actively, vehemently discouraged me from seeing the one professional whose treatment actually offered some relief. And, oh! Because, when I was fully cured, she assured me that in fact I was not, and then refused to speak to my other therapist about my case, because what worked for me would mean that she would, in effect, have patients healing faster, and thus less work for her.

So, yeah, I don’t like her.

That said, who out there can offer their opinion on this letter? I bet you can. Don’t hold back. Is this unethical? Unseemly? Or am I unhinged?

Reader Comments (54)

I really like the idea of flooding the office with all sorts of fun phone calls looking for financial advice - yippee! oh do it do it do it do it do it do it do it do it do it. does she give an email address? even better? someone can find her online and call her at home, too! ok, that's a bit far, I'll admit. but i find that betrayal of trust to be really deeply prodoundly wrong. screw her, man....
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered Commenteremmett54
How rude! I'm not sure this relates, but I had a sort of icky experience similar to this recently. I got married last month, and my husband invited some of his co-workers to our wedding. In one of the gifts, his co-worker's wife put her business card (she's a real estate agent) in the box with our gift. They both know that we already own a house, so I guess she was just looking for referrals? I don't know. The whole thing struck me as... not unethical exactly, but definitely tacky.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterpoobou
*delurking to voice another opinion*

she sounds awful, but i think it would be horrible to ruin her career for this. i mean, people got their problems, ya know? and she sounds desperate. (understandably so, if this guy actually is her leeching husband)

my advice? you got a great post out of it, so now inhale, exhale, throw the letter out and move on.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterrita
Does she by chance have a "No Soliciting" sign on her door? I do believe you done been solicited! Icky.. just plain icky.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterErinSlick
ICKY! Especially if it is indeed her husband. Why didn't she just tell the, oh, I dunno, TRUTH and say "my hubbie has a new gig with Storgan Manley, buy some stuff from him". You could still throw the letter away, but at least you wouldn't have to shower after touching it.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterGoofy Girl
I'm with Rita. It's tacky, and grosses me out too, but probably not technically wrong (as long as she did not disclose your identity to the financial advisor). My boss yesterday did something similar, recommending her personal financial advisor to any of her underlings who wanted help deciphering our company's latest 401k offerings--and I had the exact same reaction, but I don't think there was anything wrong with it. She was genuinely trying to help us (as well as the trusted advisor, her friend). Your PT was probably just doing a favor for her fallen-on-hard-times financial advisor (and if it's her husband, we know his hard times began when he married her, right, so we should have a little sympathy?)

So yes, throw it away and forget about it. Or if you want to do something, you might just write her back and tell her you thought it was kind of tacky. Good post, in any case!
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered Commentergiddy
If I were in your position, I'd consider sending a complaint letter to the appropriate people, detailing not only the latest event (the financial recommendation), but also your experience with her as a therapist -- not because you want to get her in trouble, per se, but because there may be some database-thingy in which such complaints are kept and provided to the public. Perhaps you could prevent other people from wasting their time/money/effort on a physical therapist who seems ineffective (even detrimental) and unethical.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
I am all with the official complaint people, and I particularly liked Beth's suggestion about detailing your experiences with her as a therapist. I'd basically make two separate complaints, though you can mention that this latest one was basically the last straw. But I'd definitely complain; it's almost certainly not in keeping with the professional standards of her occupation.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterEmma Goldman
If your PT's friend were, say, a cobbler in post-war Poland, and she wanted to help him find customers so he could feed his family of 10, then extending herself in this manner might be justified. But this? No.

HIPAA violation at worst, tacky at best.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMarigoldie
Sheesh. I plan on becoming a physical therapist - why do you all hate them so much? I had a very good experience with mine for my plantar faciitus. Anyway, regardless of her profession, if she's not the one being promoted, she shouldn't be doing it. Completely bizarre. Just toss the thing out, like you would any junk mail!
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria Winters
Ewww, completely icky and it also makes you question whether the financial company is completely fly-by-night as well.

Your PT sounds like she missed a few days of class when they were introducing social skills back in the day. Some people just don't understand the line between "networking" and "imposing" or "helpful long-term therapy" and "personal cash cow."
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJane
Sounds like she's taking classes at the Tom DeLay School of Ethics.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca
I'm with Kate on this one (I don't know her, I just read her comment). I work for an optometrist and am bombarded with the freakin' HIPPA regulations all day. This is a blatant disregard for the HIPPA laws. Not to mention, it's unethical and tacky. At the very least I think this woman deserves a letter illustrating your feelings about this, and an attachement referring her to your HIPPA rights and where she went wrong in this.

God, what a blatant idiot.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNiki
I bet there's some medical board just itching to see this.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSarcastic Journalist
I would contact the state (in which she practices) PT licensing board and see how they feel about her ethics. Granted I am in a different profession, but I can assure you that my state board would be giving me a call to discuse what I was doing with my client's personal information.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNevermind
I'm a therapist and I would call that a breach of confidentiality (medical records are to be used for medical purposes only and she probably shouldn't have a list of former patients around unless she was in private practice and then I don't now) and unethical. I would call the board. Therapy licenses are pretty hard to revoke or even earn discipline in most states, but they should know.

That's yucky.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterTherapist
unethical, unseemly and she's unhinged.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSarah L
I'm not sure it would be a HIPAA violation, since she's not actually disclosing your information to anyone else, unless she actually turned over her client list to this guy. She's allowed to contact her own clients. Technically, it's similar to my doctor sending me a letter saying he's closing his practice, and suggesting I visit his good buddy Dr. Newdoctor.

But it's still wrong. And waaaaay icky.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered Commentertracy
If she's in pivate practice, it's probably just gross. If shes part of a group practice or a hospital/university, she's more than likely violating some serious institutional conflict-of-interest laws.

Uh. But it's still a janky thing to do.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSpurious Plum
Icky, unethical, inappropriate. And I'd tell her so.
June 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBecki
Something similiar happened to me, and I myself have been mulling over the inappropriateness, but cannot decide if it's unethical, or just tacky. A mother in my son's kindergarten class keeps using the class email list to send us all announcements for HER MASSAGE PRACTICE. She is not a particularly pleasant person, so none of us want to get into it with her. I must admit, there are some nice revenge tactics suggested in these posts... the hair!
June 9, 2005 | Unregistered Commentergretchen
Contact your state's Department of Professional Regulation and report her. She is absolutely violating ethical standards and HIPAA as well.
June 9, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterKristin
I'm with Rita, I'd hate to see her lose her license over it since all it caused you was some annoyance. I've never done anything like that but I have done some really dumb things in my career.

Perhaps you could send her a note asking her to kindly remove you from her 'mailing list.' If it happens again, you can report her and provide a copy of your letter.

p.s. Love the new swanky 'do!
June 9, 2005 | Unregistered Commentercoffeegirl
Holy cow, as a pilot this opened my eyes to a whole new realm of advertising to a captive, mobile demographic via the PA system! I could even get their names from the manifest, and send follow-up letters after the flight. Oh, now I am thinking of segues from the rugged scenery outside the window to the latest SUV available from your friendly local dealer. I really should shut up, or they will have us doing this soon. Wait, we're usually too tired to be trusted with reading ad copy.
June 9, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterZach
Off with her head!!!

But not yours, because I just scrolled down to check out the pictures and you are cute and adorable and I want to lick you (in a very platonic, non-stalkery way).
June 9, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMir

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