To Whom It May Concern:
It is with complete disdain that I am writing this letter to you regarding the blatant misconduct and unethical practices of Dr. Julie Griffith.
I would like this letter to go on record as I am disputing a paid invoice for Dr. Griffith’s alleged services on April 3, 2009 for my two year old son, Dominic based on the following aftermath:
I made an appointment for a consultation with Dr. Griffith for my son who has been diagnosed on the Autism spectrum. Subsequent to his autism diagnosis he began having grand mal seizures in January of this year. It was my understanding that Dr. Griffith would complete a medical examination on Dominic and possibly refer us to various labs for relative testing.
1.) Prior to our consultation appointment on April 3rd in Dr. Griffith’s home office, I had taken the time according to the instruction of the Office Assistant, Laura, to print out and fill out—the 26 pages of questions relating to Dominic’s condition and health history. I did as instructed, which took me hours, and I brought the information with me to our appointment. It was at this time that I saw that she had just raised her hourly rate from $410 to $500 per hour—never did the Office Assistant let me know this when I was making the appointment.
A). During the appointment, Dr. Griffith did not once look at my completed paperwork-she instead asked me the same questions and typed my answers while charging me $500 per hour. 90% of the appointment was her asking me repeated questions from her website that I already answered while I watched her type her notes.
B.) This initial appointment, at my request due to financial hardship, was supposed to be 1 hour. It was confirmed during our consultation that the appointment be one hour and Dr. Griffith instructed her Office Assistant to ring her phone and let her know when one hour was up.
C.) 3 hours later, I was still being charged $500 per hour. I was charged $500 per hour even when Dr. Griffith was not actually examining or consulting with me. I was charged $500 per hour to sit in the living room of her home office while her Office Assistant gathered lab kits and filled out the paperwork for the lab requisitions. My bill came to $1566.67 for her time. Time, which she also used for bathroom breaks.
D.) During the 3 hour office consultation, she only examined Dominic by looking at him for no more than 10 minutes. Never did she check any of his vitals or conduct an actual medical examination as I was told would be completed within the actual consultation.
E.) I would also like to mention that it is the policy of Dr. Griffith’s office to NOT BILL INSURANCE for her service—now a huge red flag for me…
2.) More alarming and disturbing conduct of Dr. Griffith and her staff would be that she sent us away from her office with a very serious possible diagnosis of “Dandy Walker” a potentially life threatening brain malformation. I had brought with us, Dominic’s MRI, CT, and EEG’s—All of which had been reported by Doctors at Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, CA as being “normal”. Dr. Griffith looked at the MRI and surmised that Dominic had a possible brain malformation and wanted to get a Third opinion from Stanford. Needless to say, this was very upsetting to me and my family.
When I was able to contact our Neurologist in Santa Rosa, he said Dominic most certainly did not have Dandy Walker…that he did not exhibit any of the other typical signs of Dandy Walker and in so many words described Dr. Griffith as “different” with many unsubstantiated and misleading ideas.
To make matters worse, the following week, Dr. Griffith’s office phoned me to say that they wanted to see Dominic back in the office for $500 per hour so that Dr. Griffith could “re-examine” him because she now felt he had another potentially life threatening brain disorder; but when I asked the office what it was, they would not tell me unless I paid for either a $400 per hour telephone appointment or came into the office for $500 per hour. It has always been my experience with any other Doctor I have ever had that if they wanted to see you—they would first tell you WHY. I could not get this information unless I paid Dr. Griffith more money first.
I expressed my grave concern and disgust for their practices to the Office Assistant. She told me she would pass this along to Dr. Griffith and give me a call back. Later that evening, I received two very startling voicemail messages from Dr. Griffith explaining to me that she now thought Dominic had Mitochondrial Disease. Although, she never once explained what Mitochondrial Disease was—she took the time to tell me it was genetic and that it was probable that my mother and I had passed it down to him. She told me we would need to be counseled and tested and that the testing was very expensive to the tune of $3000. She also told me that my mother and I would have to sign consent forms of some nature, but did not go into any other detail. This message was left for me on the following Friday, April 10th at 5:00 p.m. Now, I had to continue my weekend thinking not only does Dominic have Dandy Walker, but now my mother and I are carriers of a Mitochondrial disease of the Brain. She was nice enough to tell me…”You are welcome to call your other Neurologist, Dr. Jannean, if you have any questions”.
Of course I had questions about this new disease I had never heard of, yet when I phoned her office on the following Monday, April 13th, I was told in order to get answers I would need to make a $400 per hour phone appointment or come in for a $500 per hour.
3.) Finally, the most appalling, unethical and serious conduct of all was that Dr. Griffith prescribed two medications to Dominic for his seizures at our appointment on April 3rd: Lamictal and Zonisimide. She told me not to immediately stop his current medicine: Trileptal and Keppra—she said we had to slowly taper him off of the current medicines giving the new medicines time to “load”. She gave me a very clear and precise schedule on how to increase the dosage of his newly prescribed medicine, but neglected to give me a complete schedule on how to taper him off the existing medicine. In the notes that I was given from her office, it only said:
“4/17/09 Appt and consider taper Trileptal”
“4/23/09 begin taper Trileptal go down ½ tsp beginning in the morning every 5 days until off. Continue taper discussion.”
Never was the Keppra taper mentioned in any of her notes. She had told me at the consultation on April 3rd that “we need to get him off of the Trileptal and Keppra because they could be causing the seizures”.
When she prescribed the new medication, she never told me that the new medicine, Lamictal, that she was prescribing could cause seizures. As a matter of fact, the only two side effects she discussed with me were that one of the new medications could cause a fatal rash and I should watch for that and that one of the medications could make him sleepy.
Once I started Dominic on the additional two medications that Dr. Griffith prescribed, along with the two he was already taking, he showed immediate severe signs of side effects after the first day. He was now having head-drop type seizures and acting very strange. He could not walk two feet without falling down, he stopped making any eye contact, cried constantly as if he had a headache or other type of pain, and was very weak to the point of not being able to walk up or down a stair.
Very alarmed with the side-effects, I called the Office Assistant so that I could talk with Dr. Griffith about Dominic’s adverse reaction to the new medicines. The Office Assistant asked if I would authorize Dr. Griffith to do some “case study” on this subject at $325 per hour. I was totally outraged! I told her absolutely NOT, that this taper schedule of his existing medicine should have been provided to me at the same time she willy-nilly prescribed him the additional two drugs! The Office Assistant told me I should make another appointment and bring Dominic in to the office for $500 per hour so that Dr. Griffith could tell me how to taper the medicine and explain the potentially fatal-genetic Mitochondrial disease to me. At this point I was almost hysterical at the thought of having to pay this Doctor more money to tell me what she should have already told me. This was a serious matter and should have immediately been treated as such. I even put my request for a taper-schedule for the existing medicines into an email to Dr. Griffith so that I could get a simple response in my email without having to pay a $400 per hour phone appointment or come into the office for a $500 per hour appointment. I still have not and have never received a response to my request.
It was during that call that I told the Office Assistant to close out our file, that I would NEVER be bringing Dominic back. I hung up the phone and immediately phoned our other Neurologist, Dr. Jannean, and although he did not prescribe the two additional drugs to Dominic, he was able to tell me how to take him off of them and why. He explained to me that he would have NEVER prescribed those medicines in combination with the two Dominic was already on. He went further to say that the Lamictal can cause head-drop type seizures. These are the kinds of seizures which Dominic had never, ever had until Dr. Griffith prescribed him the Lamictal. Yet, Dr. Griffith refused to come to the phone and discuss them with me for less than $400 per hour.
I thought, once seen by a Doctor in their office, and especially after they have prescribed medicine to a patient, that you are officially a patient of record and the responsibility of that Doctor. How can this Doctor refuse to speak with me when she undertook the treatment and changed his medication without me first paying her more money. This is tantamount to extortion.
Seven hours later I received a voicemail message from Dr. Griffith telling me that I should bring Dominic back into the office so that my insurance might possibly reimburse me. She told me she would give me a 15% discount. Wasn’t that nice? Still, Dr. Griffith has not addressed Dominic’s near overdose of the medicine she prescribed, given me any kind of taper off schedule for the Keppra or answered my questions concerning the potentially terminal and genetic Mitochondrial Disease of the brain.
I think besides Dr. Griffith being a shark only out for money, I think she purposely tried to alarm me with these two possible diagnoses for my baby: Dandy Walker and Mitochondrial Disease –knowing I would be terrified and pay her more money to tell me for sure. Aside from being highly unethical, to me, this conduct borders on criminal fraud.
Dr. Julie Griffith
Better Business Bureau
BMQA, Board of Medical Quality Assurance
Medical Board of California
Marin County District Attorney’s Office
Autism Research Institute