Seen this photo before?

Seen this photo before?

If you have, keep reading…

If nothing else, it catches your attention, right?  That’s what I thought when I first saw it.  I saw it when I read a story written by David Ammons of the Associated Press, entitled, “Dentist implanted boar tusks in woman”.  The story I first read describes an irresponsible, thoughtless oral surgeon who played a practical joke on his own assistant while under anesthesia, and then gets paid from his insurance company after his despicable actions.  Unfortunately, for Dr. Robert Woo, most of the story was untrue.  I can only assume the lies and twisted half truths were written purely for sensationalism, and it’s sad to think that anyone would destroy someone else’s reputation, so thoughtlessly.  Want to know what really happened?  Read on.  You’ll get the real story of what happened and the letters that follow are from an assistant to Dr. Woo, an attorney connected to the case, and a representative of the Seattle Times.

I can only imagine the ordeal that Dr. Woo has endured since this article was written, and I’ll definitely be much more discriminating about what I read and choose to believe in the future.  What happened to telling the whole truth?  It makes me sad that we have to work so hard to find things that are honest and truthful in our world these days.  I’m so sorry, Dr. Woo, and I’m trying to do my part to use this post to help to spread some real TRUTH.

Here’s the real, true story:
In 1999, one of my four surgical assistants Tina wanted to have #C & #H extracted under local anesthesia.  The other three surgical assistants and I decided to play a joke on her with a pig teeth flipper.  On the day of surgery Tina decided that she wanted to go to sleep for the surgery.  Instead of showing her the pig teeth flipper right after surgery we made the mistake of taking photo of her with the pig teeth flipper thinking we could show it to her on her birthday to make her laugh.  I was not there when they first gave her the pig teeth flipper on her birthday.  I was told later that she asked pictures to be taken and my staff gave her the photo we took.  Tina laughed and helped out in surgery that afternoon.  Then everything went down hill after she talked with her stepfather.  We later found out he was a local bankruptcy lawyer.  By the way, the photo did not go anywhere, even my front office staff had no clue about the joke and the photo.  Only the four surgical assistants and I saw the photo.  There were also no implants, temporarily or not.

Tina avoided our attempt to contact her.  I finally reached her stepfather who told me on the phone that everything was fine and we didn’t have to worry.  Few days later law suits were delivered to each and everyone of us including the lab man who make the flipper.  Tina, her husband and her mother were suing us for over 2 million dollars.  Why her husband?  Why her mother?  I did multiple free surgical services on her over the five years that Tina worked for me.  Greed.

When Tina learned that we found out many of her lies she threatened to take the story to the media instead of going through the court system.  We could not trust the media to tell the truth, see what the media had done with this story.  We had no choice and settled with her.

Dr. Robert Woo

From Dr. Jack Neal, DDS:

On behalf of Craig, Galia, and myself, I would like to truly apologize to Dr. Woo and his family and staff for being so irresponsible as to not properly oversee the postings on our blog.  I have known Bob for over 30 years and consider him a valued friend and colleague.  If I had seen the blog I would have not allowed it to be posted or taken it off as soon as it was.  The whole purpose of this blog is informational and educational and not a gossip column. It is especially not a forum for negatively commenting on other practitioners.  Our actions, however, added to Bob’s already considerable pain and anguish and for that we are deeply sorry. This article is a great example of the kind of “yellow journalism” that is all too common in our society.  A lazy, opportunistic writer looking for a quick salacious headline, and a greedy equally opportunistic attorney smelling an easy buck by blowing a harmless joke among friends and co-workers into a phony complaint and lawsuit that causes more heartache and considerable bad feelings for all concerned. This action was not to right a terrible wrong, but to get money or advance a byline. The surgery assistant involved lost the respect of valuable friends and colleagues, and any money received (that not spent on attorney’s fees) was not worth her loss of self- respect.  It is a good lesson for all of us in the use of the internet.  It is a wonderful source for information on just about anything, but what you say can be accessed by almost everyone and some may have a different agenda.

Jack E. Neal
Neal Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery

From: Andrew Bergh <[email protected]>
Date: August 22, 2007 10:33:32 PM PDT
To: ‘Robert Woo’ <[email protected]>
Subject: RE: times letter

Bob, in response to Dick’s email, I would agree with the advice he gave you regarding Ammons and the AP article, if you think calling him would have some therapeutic value for you.  Otherwise, I don’t think I would bother.  In my view, journalists tend to think they are bulletproof and can write anything they want because of the First Amendment.  And as the Siderus letter shows, even those journalists who maybe have a conscience won’t do anything because they are too busy getting out today’s news, not fixing yesterday’s.  (No, I don’t have a high opinion of journalists.)
I enjoyed reading Jayna’s letter, as it was nice to read something truthful for a change.  If more people only knew the actual facts.  If they did, they would react and want to send a message just like our jury did.
I hope both your family and practice are thriving, and providing excellent diversions for you as we approach the final chapter of this saga.  Its days are numbered.

Best regards,
Law Office of Andrew Bergh, P.S.

From: m marshall <[email protected]>
Date: August 21, 2007 3:35:11 PM PDT
To: [email protected]
Subject: times letter
Dr. Woo:
This is a copy of the letter sent to the times, Kiro & AP:
Dear News Editor;
I have been saddened by the twisted half truths in the recent associated press articles about Dr. Robert Woo and his long battle to claim the insurance coverage that he paid for.  Some versions of the story imply that actual boars teeth were surgically implanted in the patient! I wonder, after all of the negative comments and reaction to these stories, you can post a few words that might show Bob Woo as more of the kind and compassionate man that the rest of us know. 
I worked for Dr. Woo for 13 years, I was present during the incident in question. Never, in any way, was pain or humiliation the intent of our prank. Our intent was only a silly joke, the fake teeth in question looked like a Halloween prop, and yes, Tina loved Halloween! Tina was a friend, our families went camping together, she helped me move, I helped her celebrate her marriage and the birth of her daughter. All of us involved wish we could go back in time and take this episode out of our lives and hers. 
Everyone who meets Dr. Robert Woo knows him as a warm and understanding professional. His patients have absolute trust in him and send their children and grandchildren back to see him. He has an unblemished reputation in his community. Dr. Woo stood up to his obligation in this case, he made a fair settlement to Tina (instead of the $2 million she sued for) with minimal delay to avoid further “pain” to her, he took full responsibility of the case on his own shoulders when Tina and her entire family (by the way, daddy’s a lawyer) was trying to sue all of the other surgical staff members
The insurance carriers did not fulfill their contract. It was their duty to investigate the claim, to defend their client. Instead they stalled, failed to return phone calls, lost files. They had an obligation to be a part of the queries, but refused to attend. The AP news articles that I have read make the court’s recent decision out to be some kind of reward to Bob Woo for our practical joke. Nothing is further from the truth. Dr. Woo knew what Fireman’s obligations were and spent the better part of the last decade of his life trying to prove it. We all know that insurance companies like to invent reasons why they should not make payment for claims, this was just another example of that, and the Supreme Court agreed.
Thank-you for taking the time to read a little more about this story.
MJ Marshall
This is a copy of the letter received from Christine Siderus:

Hello there,
Thank you very much for your note. You should know that this particular story went through a series of edits for space reasons, which changed the original version considerably. It was certainly never my intention to paint Dr. Woo in a poor light, merely to tell the story based on the court documents, the justice’s opinions, and our archives on the case. Without being able to talk with the doctor myself, however, I was faced with his lawyer’s descriptions and the history at hand.

When an employee praises a supervisor the way you do, that speaks for itself. It sounds like that office was a wonderful place to work for you, as well as other employees.  Dr. Woo has to be happy about that, as well as his victory in court.

I thank you for writing and giving me your perspective. It is difficult — if not impossible — to address every angle of a story on deadline, so I am glad to hear your side.


Christina Siderius
The Seattle Times

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