(In case you happened to miss it, here’s a case we covered several years ago. We find it twisted enough to make our weekend ‘Freaky Physician File’)
By now – if you’re familiar with our work here at Medical Miscreants in the least – you may suspect that when it comes to lab coat lunatics, you’ve just about seen it all. And if you’ve read our book, “America’s Dumbest Doctors” you might even be sure of it.
You’d be wrong.
Consider the case of Doctor Frederick Reed of Charleston, South Carolina. According to a spokesman at Bon Secours St. Francis Xavier Hospital, this particular doctor, an orthopedic surgeon, performed an amputation of a young boy’s foot, back in 1993. The hospital also reports that the boy’s parents gave the doctor permission to keep the foot, for the express purposes of research.
Because it’s Sunday and we’re in a good mood, let’s give this particular surgeon the benefit of the doubt and presume that the little foot really did need to come off.
Now, there is no record of exactly what type of research Doctor Reed had in mind. But whatever it was, he certainly didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get to it, because he admitted to law enforcement later that he’d kept the foot in his home freezer for at least three years. According to the police report, the strange case of the frozen foot took another odd turn when the doctor’s freezer went on the fritz. That meant the little foot – and all the frozen food surrounding it – began to thaw. And that just couldn’t be good.
So here’s a question for those of you who enjoy playing parlor games of applied logic: What does a normal human being do when the sawed-off foot of a little boy in their home freezer begins to rot? I mean, come on: what do you usually do?
Well, we now know what Doctor Frederick Freaky Reed did: he put the foot in a crab trap and dropped it to the bottom of the bay off Sullivan’s Island beach. His nifty, highly-educated plan was to have crabs nibble off the flesh. Yeah, it really was.
And nobody in South Carolina was more surprised when that little foot washed ashore than the freaky foot physician himself. My, oh my, what a shocker.
Of course the police were particularly interested, and spent over a hundred hours investigating whether Reed, MD had violated any laws governing the handling of human tissue. But as in thousands of other weird science cases, this surgeon’s shenanigans managed to stretch just a few toe-lengths beyond existing law. That’s one advantage of being a medical maniac. You can get away with off-the-chart behavior that normal people cannot.
Eventually, according to records of the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners, Frederick Reed MD was subject to minor disciplinary action by the Board. Specifically, the Medical Board’s report says this:
“Frederick E. Reed, Jr., M.D. failed to respect the law by placing an amputated human foot in a crab trap.”
So the Board issued a Public Reprimand; fined the daffy doc $3,000; punished him with unspecified “terms and conditions on his license.”
But, in the end of course, boys will be boys and this fellow cruises right along playing with other people’s feet. In the Twilight Zone, alternative universe of medicine, nobody really cares enough to hold physicians to particularly high standards of say, a truck driver or store clerk.
Kind of a pity, don’t you think?
Final note: At no point in the Medical Board or police report is this simple question posed:
“Hey, doc. Did you plan to eat the crab that ate the kid’s foot?”
Here’s an earlier view of the case: