The life and death of Patrick Chavis

Posted: Aug 07, 2002 12:00 AM
Dr. Patrick Chavis is dead. Will the liberal politicians and gullible media who made him a poster boy for government-imposed affirmative action shed a single tear, or will they continue to ignore what a shameful tragedy his life became? According to a Los Angeles County Sheriff's detective I spoke with last week, Chavis was murdered on the night of July 23 in Hawthorne, an economically depressed neighborhood on the southern edge of Los Angeles. Three unknown assailants shot him during an alleged robbery at a Foster's Freeze. They remain on the loose. The news has yet to be reported anywhere else, but sources told me it was the buzz of the Los Angeles medical community last week. Seven years ago, Chavis became the toast of the media elite and the racial preference crowd when he was profiled lavishly by New York Times magazine writer Nicholas Lemann. Chavis, who made the cover of the magazine, was a black physician admitted to the University of California-Davis medical school under a special racial-preference quota. In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court later struck down the program after a landmark challenge by white applicant Allan Bakke. Lemann contrasted what he considered Bakke's unremarkable career following the lawsuit with Chavis' noble and booming ob-gyn practice in the ghetto of Compton. Three months later, Jane Fonda's ex-husband, left-wing California politico Tom Hayden, heaped praise on Chavis in defense of affirmative action. "Bakke's scores were higher," Hayden wrote in an article for The Nation, "but who made the most of his medical school education? From whom did California taxpayers benefit more?" Sen. Ted Kennedy picked up the banner a year later, calling Chavis "a perfect example" of the need for lowering admissions standards in the name of racial diversity. The doctor, Kennedy crowed, was "making a difference in the lives of scores of poor families." What The New York Times never got around to reporting, as Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby first noted and journalist William McGowan later chronicled in his award-winning book "Coloring the News," is that the "difference" Chavis made in the lives of several young black women involved gruesome pain -- and death -- as a result of botched "body sculpting" operations at his clinic. An administrative law judge found Chavis guilty of gross negligence and incompetence in the treatment of three patients. Yolanda Mukhalian lost 70 percent of her blood after Chavis hid her in his home for 40 hours following a bungled liposuction; she miraculously survived. The other survivor, Valerie Lawrence, also experienced severe bleeding following the surgery; after Lawrence's sister took her to a hospital emergency room, Chavis barged in and discharged his suffering patient -- still hooked up to her IV and catheter -- and also stashed her in his home. Tammaria Cotton bled to death and suffered full cardiac arrest after Chavis performed fly-by-night liposuction on her and then disappeared. In 1997, the Medical Board of California suspended Chavis' license, warning of his "inability to perform some of the most basic duties required of a physician." In a statement filed by a psychiatrist, the state demonstrated Chavis' "poor impulse control and insensitivity to patients' pain." A tape recording of "horrific screaming" by patients in Chavis' office revealed the doctor responding callously: "Don't talk to the doctor while he is working" and "Liar, liar, pants on fire." If Allan Bakke, the white doctor, had engaged in such disgraceful behavior and met such an ignominious end, you can bet the Left would never let us forget it. But Ted Kennedy and Tom Hayden, who spoke so voluminously about the poor black patients who supposedly benefited from medical affirmative action, had nothing to say about the poor black women who were brutally victimized by the incompetent Chavis. As for The New York Times, Bill McGowan wrote: They "ran nothing to amend their false portrait of an affirmative action hero, or question the legitimacy of the race-conscious social policy that had made him a doctor. A riveting, nationally newsworthy story central to the country's discussion of racial preferences somehow ended up completely falling through the cracks." Will the Times editors bother to run an obituary about their fallen affirmative action hero? Will Ted Kennedy send his condolences? Don't hold your breath.