BAD MEDICINE BLOG | Finding a family

BALTIMORE - FINDING A FAMILY

As any good reporter knows, telling good stories is about having all the facts and having a personal touch to bring the story to life. 

No matter the assignment, we are told to find people who can put the issue we're covering into perspective...to give us the emotions to the facts and give viewers someone to relate to. 

The best stories have people with compelling stories to really drive the point home and we were lucky enough to find that with our Bad Medicine investigation, but it wasn't easy.  

We ended up with a heartbreaking story thanks to a family willing to open up some very deep, old wounds and share their experience. 

It wasn't easy and I am grateful they trusted us enough to let us into their lives.  Our story focuses mostly on the family of Janet Hannan, a Baltimore County woman who passed away three days after undergoing plastic surgery in 2005. 

Her family had never been contacted by the media to do a story, which is incredibly surprising to me knowing all the details of what they went through. 

This family made incredible efforts in the wake of Janet's death to raise awareness about some shortcomings in the medical system in Maryland and fought in Annapolis for the passage of legislation that would better protect patients.  Remarkably though, their story remained under wraps.

So how did we find them??  It was a challenge.  Discipline records from the Maryland Board of Physicians are very open when it comes to the physicians, but because of HIPPA, the names and identifying information for patients is kept confidential. 

While this is wonderful when it comes to protecting the patients, it makes the job of a reporter more difficult.  We knew all these doctors whose stories we wanted to talk about - but we had no "people" for the story...no one to personalize what these doctors were accused of and what it meant to the families to have their discipline take such a long time.

It was a fluke that we were able to find the Hannans.  They were rare in that they had actually filed a lawsuit against the physician they felt had committed a wrong. 

As a result of that lawsuit, a settlement was reached.  And later, a bankrupcty was filed.  While Janet Hannan wasn't listed in any of the Maryland Board of Physicians documentation, her family was listed in all the court proceedings, which are public record.

So after a few phone calls and some Facebook messages, suddenly I was on the phone with Mike and Bryan Hannan. 

Turns out they had been waiting years to talk to someone about what had happened to the woman they loved.  They were relieved to finally air all the things they'd been feeling. 

I hope I've been able to do their story justice.

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