September 22, 2008
6. A Doctor’s Speciality: Teenagers in Trouble
Governor Palin’s announcement of her appointees to the Alaska Health Care Strategies Planning Council says this about Dr. Baldwin Johnson:
Dr. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson of Wasilla is a private practice family physician and the 2002 National Family Physician of the Year from the American Academy of Family Physicians. In 1999, Baldwin-Johnson co-founded and is the volunteer medical director of The Children’s Place, and since 2005 has served as a consultant and trainer on child abuse issues. Baldwin-Johnson graduated from the University of Washington School of Medicine where she participated in the WWAMI Medical School program.
Dr. Baldwin-Johnson is a family-practitioner. On Oct. 1, 2001, Baldwin-Johnson was named the 2002 Family Physician of the Year by the American Academy of family Physicians.
She was apparently both the regular doctor of Trig’s mother and the delivering doctor of Trig. Checking Matsu Hospital records, the only hospital that she is affiliated with, we find that Dr. Baldwin-Johnson delivered only three babies in the previous eighteen months: on Feb. 7 2008, Oct 3, 2007, March 17,2007. In all three cases, she was not the mother’s physician. There are two cases listed where Baldwin-Johnson was the mother’s doctor, but not the delivering physician: Dec. 18, 2006, and Jan 27, 2008. There was not a single time during the prior eighteen months that Doctor Baldwin-Johnson delivered one of her own patient’s babies at Matsu Hospital; three times she delivered other doctors’ patient’s babies, and twice other doctors delivered her patient’s babies. Thus delivering her own patient’s baby was an unusual event, rather than a normal one for Dr. Baldwin-Johnson.
Dr. Baldwin-Johnson is the founder and volunteer medical director of the Children's Place, an agency for children who have been victims of physical or sexual abuse. She is frequently quoted for her views on this subject. For example:
So the state is launching the Alaska Surveillance of Child Abuse and Neglect program, part of the state Division of Public Health.
"If you don't know accurately where you are starting from, you can't measure accurately whether what you do makes a difference," said Cathy Baldwin-Johnson , a doctor who chairs a task force that tries to improve the state's response to child abuse, particularly sexual abuse. She also is medical director of Alaska CARES, a clinic that provides exams and helps investigate sexual abuse.
About a year earlier, Baldwin-Johnson wrote an article that was published in the Anchorage Daily News defending privacy rights of rape victims:
Today's media play a strong role in creating community awareness about child abuse and sexual violence. Publishing the private details of these crimes, however, risks re-victimizing the victim…
Police officers, advocates and medical providers all know of victims who attempted suicide after public disclosure of abuse. Some have died. Public curiosity should never outweigh the fragile mental health of someone who has been sexually victimized. The frequency of these crimes can breed indifference or numbness, but for each victim the pain is new, personal and deep. Disclosing a child victim's identity can shatter their whole world…
It is up to the press to show restraint while fulfilling their journalistic responsibilities. This is not about censorship. It is about the respectful treatment of victims of violent crimes. No one has a right to victimize the victim further by publishing sensitive or identifying information…
Let's resolve to leave out the graphic descriptions of sex acts and references to collateral information that can potentially identify crime victims. We lose nothing in public safety; we gain much when we grant dignity and privacy to those enduring legal proceedings as they recover their shattered lives.
The fact that Bristol was sixteen, unwed and about to give birth to a child would certainly qualify her as a victim of sexual abuse. Legally, if Levi Johnson was 17 at the time, he cannot be legally prosecuted for statutory rape. If he was 18 at the time (Aug. 2007) then he could be. In any case, as the governor’s daughter, one can imagine the things that would be written about her in such a situation in newspapers throughout the state. Did Dr. Baldwin-Johnson possibly see herself as protecting the privacy rights of a sixteen year-old sexual abuse victim in this case?
In the case of Bristol being the mother, it would seem more probable that Dr. Baldwin-Johnson, a specialist in teen-ager pregnancy-abuse problems, would participate exclusively as both primary health care provider and baby deliverer. This way Bristol could be sure that her “secret” would remain safe. On the other hand, given the increased risks for a pregnant woman over 40 and especially one having a baby diagnosed with Down Syndrome, it seems highly likely that she would recommend that an obstetrician deliver the baby. Since Palin’s pregnancy was not a secret, Baldwin-Johnson took a great and unnecessary risk. If something had gone wrong, she would have taken the blame for not recommending an obstetrician do the delivery.
Admittedly, we do not know the relationship between Palin and Dr. Baldwin-Johnson. It is certain that Palin did appoint Baldwin-Johnson to a state commission and recommend her for an award. She may have delivered Palin’s baby Piper. it is not impossible that Dr. Baldwin-Johnson would decide to deliver Sarah Palin under these circumstances, it is just decidedly more likely that she would decide to deliver Bristol Palin under such circumstances.
Incidentally, I have been unable to find any evidence that Dr. Baldwin-Johnson actually delivered Piper, as claimed by Sarah Palin.