Schneider: Sparrow will amend medical marijuana user's records

Jennifer Maxey (left) and The Unconventional Foundation for Autism founder Mieko Hester-Perez (right) at 420 University's Science and Compassionate Care Seminar this summer in Michigan

By John Schneider for Lansing State Journal

LANSING, MI – On June 29 I told you about Jennifer Maxey and her 16-year-old son, Austin. Maxey believed Austin, who uses medical cannabis to treat his chronic pain, was a victim of anti-marijuana prejudice at Sparrow Hospital in May.

Maxey, who lives in Lansing, demanded that Austin’s medical records be purged of prejudicial notes made by the attending doctor – implications that Austin was a drug abuser, perhaps in need of rehab. If allowed to stand, Maxey reasoned, the comments would follow her son the rest of his life, and possibly influence the quality of treatment he received.

Well, Maxey prevailed – sort of. She got a call last week from somebody in Sparrow’s Risk Management Department. Said Maxey: “She informed me that the corrections that I requested … are being completed.”

Maxey added: “They cannot delete the original records, but they will make amendments that will become a permanent part of (Austin’s) record …”

Chronic Pain

Austin suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic disorder characterized by chronic pain. Hoping to rescue Austin from the debilitating painkillers he was taking, Maxey decided to try medical marijuana, legalized by Michigan voters in 2008. She went though the proper channels, as outlined by the state Department of Community Health.

Austin started using marijuana – less than a gram a week (there are about 28 grams in an ounce) – in March. Maxey buys pre-made muffins, candy and oil from the designated caregiver.

The result, she said, has been “phenomenal.”

For the purposes of the original column Sparrow spokesman John Berg issued a written statement that said, in part:

“Ms. Maxey’s contention that the notations in her son’s medical record refer to his use of medical cannabis is false.”

The doctor’s use of the term “narcotic addiction,” Berg argued, referred to Austin’s long-term use of painkillers. He denied it was related to the boy’s use of medical cannabis.

However, Maxey pointed to a note on a Sparrow form that refers to Austin’s “Obvious marijuana use.” In a June 16 letter Austin’s doctor, Arthur J. Ronan of Lansing, wrote: “Austin has never abused his medication, nor has he ever been treated for substance abuse, or addiction.”

In response to the new development, Berg issued another written statement Wednesday that said, in part: “… in health care, it is standard practice that information in a medical record should never be deleted, obliterated, or altered after the fact.”

Incomplete information, Berg said, could compromise patient care. Furthermore, the perception that information is being hidden from insurance investigators could be seen as fraud.

“However,” he added, “the judicious use of an addendum in a medical record is reasonable, and permitted by law …”

By the way, Maxey, who was working for a law firm when I first wrote about her, now is a patient advocate for Capital City Caregivers, a nonprofit agency whose self-stated mission is “helping registered patients and caregivers safely, securely, and professionally obtain medical marijuana in Lansing.”

The agency contacted Maxey as a result of my original column, and eventually offered her a job.

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