This is the letter that Julia’s husband wrote that will be sent to the CEO, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and the Dean/Vice President for medical Affairs at RIC and it’s affiliated medical school at Northwestern.


I am writing to you as a clinical physician, a physician-administrator, and most importantly as the husband of a patient.  This letter is a formal complaint against one of your physicians, Richard Harvey, MD, who behaved in a manner that was harmful to a patient, my wife Julia, and to your reputation as the leading rehabilitation hospital in the United States. His recommendations over the phone were superficial, uncaring,  based on incomplete information, were psychologically damaging, and not at all what is expected of a medical director of Stroke Rehabilitation at a major center.  Whether intended or not, the effect of his words were to tell my wife, “You will not get better, we can’t help you, find a way to enjoy what you still have in life, which I am sure is wonderful”.

Eighteen months ago my wife Julia had a right basal ganglia hemorrhagic stroke due to a cavernous malformation, leaving her with significant left hemiparesis and sensory deficit, but intact cognitive and language abilities.  She has made improvement in her walking ability, not using either a leg brace or a wheelchair as of six months post-stroke, and is no longer using a cane at home.  She cares for herself alone at home while I am at work.  Unfortunately, her arm recovery has lagged her leg, so she is still unable to work or take care of our home, which she loved doing. For this reason we were considering coming to Chicago from New York City, where we live, for an evaluation and initial therapy to see if an intensive full-day outpatient course of therapy at RIC might be beneficial.  Toward that end we called Dr. Harvey last week.

I understand, as should Dr. Harvey, that by its nature, a phone consultation is a challenge, preliminary by definition.  When I called him I briefly outlined Julia’s history, similar to that stated above.  I then brought Julia onto the phone for a three-way conversation.  What most upset both Julia and me were two issues: 1) once Dr. Harvey became aware that Julia had seen Joel Stein, MD, a stroke physiatrist and chairman at Columbia Presbyterian New York, he took a step back, deferring to a close colleague’s assessment as reported by us without even speaking with that colleague himself, saying that he and RIC would have nothing more to offer than Dr. Stein and his institution, and 2) a clear underlying message that Julia has essentially no chance of regaining hand function, neither wrist nor finger extension, so she should stop spending most of her day doing rehabilitation at home, and essentially, “get a life”.  His presumptuous and culturally insensitive words were, “You have a great life”, just learn to accept your (fixed) limitations.  Julia could see where he was headed, and attempted to stop him, saying, “Please don’t go there”, but he plowed straight ahead anyway, saying what he apparently thinks he needs to say to all or most patients regardless of their values.

My Harvard-educated physician and award-winning graphic designer wife did not get where she is in life by being complacent and compliant.  She works harder than anybody I know and is uncompromising in her standards.  She wants to get everything or almost everything back in terms of left arm and leg function, and has worked and will continue to work ceaselessly at it.  I thought that’s what the rehabilitation field’s ethos was – to understand each individual patient’s values and goals, and to work creatively and tirelessly to help her achieve them. And that’s why we called what we thought was the No.1 rehabilitation center.  Instead, Dr. Harvey’s words were tone-deaf and harmful.  He spoke insensitively to someone teetering on the edge of despair, and pushed her right over the cliff.  And I have had to spend the last week helping her crawl back to solid ground.

I was taught that the physician’s art and skill lie in asking the right questions, but Dr. Harvey didn’t even ask us any follow-up questions about Julia’s hand function, which is actually not as black-and-white as he assumed.  A physician must also have both the humility and the patience to reach his own conclusions, not blindly accepting others’ assessments, as Dr. Harvey did as soon as he heard our report of his friend Dr. Stein’s assessment, which was from well over half a year ago.  He also seemed to adhere to the overly simplistic and reductionist formulation of 3 month/6 month/12 month benchmarks for stroke recovery and prognosis.  Finally, it seemed that his interest in Julia ended when it was clear that she didn’t fit into his research protocols for transcranial stimulation.

In summary, we found Dr. Harvey’s approach to Julia’s request for help to be lacking the professionalism, compassion, and respect that should be standard at an institution of RIC’s caliber.  Was that too much to ask of Dr. Harvey or RIC?


Categories: Brain stuff, Health, Recovery, Rehab, Stroke stuff

Tags: , , , ,

27 replies

  1. That’s awesome! I truly hope he incurs dire repercussions as a result of his completely insensitive treatment of Julia and her husband.

    Julia, please do not let his words and actions (or lack thereof) stifle or dampen your spirit and strong will!!!

  2. My wife had a very similar experience except it was in person and Dr. Harvey had examined her and was her physiatrist. She also had a stroke that affected her left side to about the same degree as Julia. In addition to predictions that she would not get much better, Dr. Harvey commented that medical care was becoming prohibitively expensive in the U.S. and that he couldn’t prescribe treatment when there was little chance for success.

    Certainly someone needs to be concerned about the cost of medical care but I don’t want it to be my wife’s doctor. I want him to be concerned with what’s best for her, not the country as a whole, much as a lawyer serving a client. Our elected representatives can worry about what’s best for the country.

    • Oh my word, he’s a repeat offender. I sure would like to know just how he decides who will and will not get better, by merely taking a look at someone or reading some information on a page.

      I was perusing their website and I read something on one of the patient success stories pages that said something about how Dr. Harvey felt it was important to always be hopeful. This seems to be the exact opposite of how he actually behaves. How incredibly sad and thoroughly disgusting. Also, I thought it was interesting and suspicious that all of the patient success stories (that I saw) were with patients who were 30 and under.

      • I read through their website too, and it’s total bullshit, in light I what I’ve experienced and what Ted has too. I’m sure there are many others. So all of you stroke survivors out there – if you have had an issue with Dr. Harvey at RIC, let the rest of us know.

  3. Steve, bravo!!!

  4. similar comments here too, ‘get used to it’, based on a 2012 report!

  5. Much more conciliatory than I would have written. If he is the leader of the stroke rehab department he is totally incompetent and should be fired.

  6. Yeah hubby! Great letter. Would be interested in the follow up of this.

  7. Nice work! I had a similar experience with the top ” stroke expert moron” at UCLA. I thought that because he was the top guy he would have some genius insight or offer me something nobody else did…No way! Same bs kind of message. The survivor community is the only place solutions and hope is offered up….stay away from all the doctors. Unless you need a surgery, then go see Dr. Spetzler in Phoenix…he literally saved my life.

  8. The letters are going out today overnight and should arrive tomorrow. I’ll let you know if we get any responses. Anyone else who has encountered a similar situation – if you see something, say something. Ted – if you are interested in writing letters about Dr. Harvey, let me know and I will get the names and addresses to you. And thank you all again for your support.

    • Hi , I am Ted’s wife, Jane. I would be happy to write a letter. Please forward me the names and addresses. My email is: jane@bcthomes.com. I left his( Dr. Harvey’s) ‘office sobbing, I immediately found a new physiatrist at RIC (Dr.Sliwa)he is terrific. Dr. Harvey gave me NO hope, but I do have hope because my hope and faith is not with him. I am still getting better 2.5 years after my stroke I am not quitterJane

  9. Bottom line: Health professionals have to have compassion. Dr. Harvey and others apparently don’t have the compassionate gene. Forget the title. Maybe Mr. Harvey is more suited to a desk job where he doesn’t have to interact with others.

  10. Unfortunately, I believe Dr. Harvey is Director of Medicine at RIC

  11. I think there’s a shit storm about to come down at the RIC.

  12. And why does anyone think stroke doctors know anything at all? According to the NSA in 2009 only 10% almost fully recovered and really none of that is due to the doctor. 😦

  13. My son suffered a massive brainstem stroke a year ago at the age of 31. He had what they call “locked in syndrome” . We took him to RIC because it was suppose to be the best place in the country. Dr. Harvey was is Dr. My son’s stay at RIC was short, the place was disgusting…so understaffed, the nurses and aids apparently had no idea how to care for someone with this kind of stroke, not to mention his basic needs were not even being met. Having a rare stroke like this had Dr. Harvey’s attention of course. But he only seen my son 1 time in three weeks..When I met with Dr. Harvey I voiced my concern about his basic care not being met at RIC. He literally said..this meeting is to get an update from his therapist and discuss his treatment. He advised me to discuss those kinds of issues with the nurse manager. I was furious..Needless to say, I dont care how good they say Dr. Harvey is, we moved my son to MarionJoy were he was treated with respect and dignity. sincerely., a mom


  1. RIC – mycerebellarstrokerecovery

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