I’m shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic passing of Dr. Michael Davidson, the director of endovascular cardiac surgery at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. This past Tuesday, as he was preparing to see patients, a man whose mother Dr. Davidson had treated in November 2014 entered the hospital asking for the doctor by name. Stephen Pasceri, a 55-year old army Vet and father of four children, shot Dr. Davidson twice, and the physician died from injuries shortly after. Pasceri shot himself after and was found dead. Dr. Davidson is survived by three children and his 7-month pregnant wife.
According to the Boston Herald, Pasceri’s sister Marguerite Joly said, ““I think it comes down to the fact that my brother thought it was the doctor’s fault that my mother died.” Their relationship with Dr. Davidson back in November had been amicable, and Joly remarked, “Everything seemed to be going really well. I have no idea why he snapped like this.” Pasceri had no past medical history of psychiatric illness that we know of at this point. What we do know is that in 2012 when his father passed away from a heart attack in the emergency room, he was incensed enough about the hospital bill to write letters to Senator John Kerry and U.S. Representative James McGovern to try to start an investigation. How do we link frustration with the US healthcare system to the senseless killing of a loved and well-respected physician at one of the best hospitals in our country?
I can’t imagine not feeling safe in the workplace, especially at a hospital where we devote our lives to saving others. I’ve been thinking hard this evening about what we can do to prevent this from happening again. Some hospitals that I visited as part of the interview trail last year have metal detectors at the main entrance. Should that be a more common sight? Do we need more armed security guards stationed in the hospital? I wonder if there was anything odd or off about Pasceri when he asked for Dr. Davidson’s office? Were there any warning signs that anyone could have seen?
As one of my readers pointed out to me today, this shooting reminds me a lot of similar patient-doctor homicides that occurred in China. For that post I looked into the statistics of patient-doctor violence in the US and was shocked to find that as high as 30% of emergency room docs have been victims of physical assault in their careers. This attack is a reminder to all of us in the medical field to be highly vigilant of our surroundings and to push for a greater change in employee protection.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Dr. Davidson’s family and the B&W hospital community. This is a senseless tragedy that took the life of a physician who could have saved so many other lives with his expertise. A Dr. Michael J. Davidson Family Fund has been established here if you wish to contribute.