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    Mayo Clinic responds to false, sensationalized CNN story

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Updated Media Statement/August 17, 2018

ROCHESTER, Minn. – “At the heart of this matter is a vulnerable patient,” says Charles (Michel) Harper, M.D., executive dean for practice, Mayo Clinic.  “Mayo Clinic firmly stands behind our statements regarding care of this patient and our interactions with CNN.  Our thorough, internal review determined that the care team’s actions, in addition to being lifesaving, were true to Mayo’s primary value and we fully support the actions of our staff.”

Dr. Harper points out that it’s important to reiterate these key facts:

Mayo Clinic firmly stands behind our statements regarding care of this patient and our interactions with CNN.  A prolonged public debate is not in the best interest of the patient or our staff. It’s important to reiterate these key facts:

  • The patient was a vulnerable adult who could not make decisions for herself during that period of recovery after life-saving brain surgery.
  • The reports of abuse and the patient’s highly unstable family and social environment caused us to reach out to the courts for guidance.
    • Mayo Clinic removed the mother from the hospital due to her repeated aggressive and threatening behavior towards our staff.
    • Public court documents illustrate the challenges facing the family, including the August 10, 2018 court-ordered removal of five children from the mother’s home and allegations of abuse and substance abuse by the mother.
    • Mayo contacted law enforcement when the patient was removed from the hospital by the family against medical advice because we believed her life and safety were at risk if she did not receive appropriate medical care.
  • Mayo Clinic did not attempt to take custody of the patient or become her guardian.  Instead, Mayo sought judicial guidance to help identify the best person to make decisions for the patient.
  • Mayo Clinic never refused a request for a transfer. We received a request to explore a transfer “within the coming week” on February 27, 2017 and did not have the chance to clarify and consider the request for a transfer of care before the patient was removed by the family from our care against medical advice on February 28, 2017.
  • Mayo Clinic is deeply disturbed by CNN’s sensationalized, inaccurate and incomplete reporting.
    • We met with CNN on background with the agreement that the conversation would inform their reporting. We did not go on camera out of concern that this would bring undue attention to a vulnerable patient.
    • CNN’s incomplete reporting failed to include our informed and significant concern for the patient’s safety and the public and court records or interviews with family members not closely associated with the mother.
  • We fully support our compassionate and dedicated staff who were and remain deeply concerned for the patient’s well-being and safety and exemplify Mayo’s values and commitment to our patients.


News release posted Aug. 15, 2018: 

Mayo Clinic responds to false, sensationalized CNN story

ROCHESTER, Minn. – Mayo Clinic publicly responded to the inaccurate, incomplete and irresponsible reporting by CNN in this week’s “Escape from Mayo Clinic” series, noting that the series lacks context that CNN was provided, but chose not to investigate or report. Mayo also sent a letter directly to CNN leadership expressing its profound disappointment.

Here is the letter sent to CNN.

“A team of Mayo Clinic leaders met with CNN for more than four hours to give them context and share insights to inform their reporting and help them see that there were highly complex and sensitive family dynamics involved in caring for this patient,” says Chris Gade, chair, Mayo Clinic Department of Public Affairs. “While we knew the reporter was focused on a pre-determined narrative, the information we provided should have helped them see that their premise was inaccurate. Instead they chose to ignore that information. We were shocked and deeply saddened by the wholly inaccurate and incomplete reporting that was published.”

“We chose not to be interviewed by CNN for the story because doing so would bring negative publicity to a vulnerable adult in a suspected abusive family environment,” says Charles (Michel) Harper, M.D., executive dean for practice, Mayo Clinic. “It’s a heartbreaking situation. And, as caregivers, we believe our role is to protect our patient’s well-being and safety.

Because of the egregious errors in the story – and the fact that the public is left believing such false and sensational claims about our dedicated and hard-working staff – we were left no choice but to share more information about the situation. This is a decision we do not take lightly, and it is highly unusual for us.”

Watch: News Network reporter Axel Gumbel interviews Dr. Harper.
Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites of Dr. Harper is in the downloads.

Dr. Harper adds: “This case was escalated to the highest levels of leadership, and the care team worked with this family on a daily basis to listen and resolve their concerns. The needs, welfare and safety of the patient during a potentially life-threatening situation were our top priority, and at the same time we were dealing with a very complex situation with extremely challenging family dynamics involving a vulnerable patient. Information given to us by family members, and behavior we experienced ourselves, compelled us to notify authorities of our concerns.”


About Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to clinical practice, education and research, providing expert, comprehensive care to everyone who needs healing. Learn more about Mayo Clinic. Visit the Mayo Clinic News Network.

Media contacts:

Ginger Plumbo, Kelley Luckstein or Karl Oestreich, Mayo Clinic Public Affairs, 507-284-5005, newsbureau@mayo.edu


Statement posted Aug. 13, 2018: 

Mayo Clinic is responding to the CNN story “Escape from Mayo Clinic” about a patient that was cared for at Mayo Clinic during 2016-2017.

Here is our statement on the story:

“Mayo Clinic strongly disagrees with the inaccurate and incomplete points made in the story about this patient. We believe that we acted in the best interest of the patient, including providing life-saving surgery. We are deeply disappointed that our subsequent actions to care for and to protect the patient seem to be misunderstood, as we were focused on the best interest of the patient.

Patient safety is always our highest priority, and it is at the forefront of the care we deliver to each patient. We are unwavering in our dedication to do what is best for every patient, every time. This patient’s case was no exception. This case was escalated to the highest level of leadership, and the care team worked with this family on a daily basis to listen to them and resolve their concerns. The same care, focus on her well-being and level of professionalism that this patient experienced during her life-saving surgery were also part of her post-surgery experience. This was a very complex situation with very challenging dynamics.

Following a thorough and careful review of the care in question, we have determined that the version of events provided by certain patient family members to CNN is not supported by the facts nor do they track with the direct observations of numerous other providers on the patient’s care team.  Our internal review determined that the care team’s actions were true to Mayo Clinic’s primary value that the patient’s needs come first. We acted in a manner that honored that value for this patient and that also took into account the safety and well-being of the team caring for the patient.

This story lacks further clarification and context that CNN knew but chose not to use.

While we will not discuss specific patients or their families, many who seek Mayo Clinic’s care can also be dealing with significant emotional and family dynamic complications which can be challenging in an already complex medical situation. We provided life-saving care for this patient and made decisions based on what we felt is best for the future of this patient.”