Horror Stories

Personal stories of former Mayo Clinic staff members circulate from time to time, but are mostly forgotten as Mayo Administration moves in quickly to fire, discredit and silence any “troublemaker” who dares object to Mayo’s version of benevolent wisdom.

32 Responses to “Horror Stories”

  1. Anonymous

    Need a GOOD Labor Att

    Very inspiring. All your patience and efforts have started to pay off. Thanks for sharing your new “toy”

  2. Anonymous

    Mayo is Evil

    “Personnel intervened to delay my termination until the “proper” documentation was in place.”

    I had a similar experience and my employment lasted a lot longer than yours. I intend to leave out the details of my situation to avoid future harassment
    from Mayo. I am posting so anyone else that has problems with management can have an idea of what to expect.

    1# They will spin doctor anything you say and ram it right back down your throat. The crimes they are guilty of they will accuse you of!

    #2 You are not allowed to have witnesses but management can call as many as they like, usually hand picked toadies advancing their careers. If you had witnesses or allies they will be threatened to remain silent and black listed if they attempt to help you.

    #3 Management will wave a stack of “evidence” against you. In my case it was a stack of paper an inch thick of discipline/ performance issues BACK DATED to the start of my employment. It was like something out of George Orwell’s 1984. They created an instant negative history. A history that I was not allowed to read, have copies of or even know what I was accused of. Not a drop of it needed my signature, “witnesses” said I refused to sign all of it. Who are these witnesses? thats a secret also. This history will be the platform they use for all of their future attacks.

    4. Any attempt to get management to respond to email, voice mail or letters will be ignored. Then they claim they were not aware of any problems. I love their line “If we had only known we could have done something, why didn’t you communicate with us?”

    5. They will decide you are mentally ill and need help. DO NOT TALK TO ANYONE THEY SEND YOU TO OR THEY ARE AFFILIATED WITH. They are building a profile for future reference. No I am not paranoid!

    6. If they don’t fire you on the spot expect random punishments until you resign. Mayo would rather force you to resign than terminate you so they don’t have to pay unemployment benefits. Expect a few suspensions without pay and the hint that this will continue until you volunteer to leave.

    7. They will attempt to provoke you into doing something stupid don’t take the bait. Resign before you go to jail and are sued into oblivion. I advise anyone having difficulty at all to plan their departure now.

    Now a message to certain people at the Mayo Clinic. I have only one prayer on my mind, your damnation.

  3. Anonymous

    The Mayo Clinic verges on the wicked. Some time ago there was a post on the Rochester Craigslist to the effect that some TV show, 60 minutes or 20/20 (I forget which – but if needed I do have a copy of the post) were doing an expose’ of the Mayo Clinic and were seeking input. Then, lo and behold – Tom Brokaw joins the board of the Mayo Foundation. I have no idea as to the veracity of the Craigslist post but it’s very interesting.

  4. Anonymous

    Mayo is a Nightmare

    When I worked at Mayo Clinic, I experienced an incessant amount of micromanaging by a supervisor who was well versed in playing the blame game and being overly critical in effort to compensate for her overall incompetency.

    My every move was monitored. Even my bathroom breaks were questioned. Leadership engaged in a management style that promoted fear and intimidation. The service values of mutual respect, teamwork, communication, innovation, integrity, etc. were abandoned in favor of promoting fear and intimidation.

    The numerous complaints to Human Resources department amounted to a waste of time. Ultimately, the HR officials align themselves with their narcissistic managers.

    It is true that they force you to resign. A few years ago, they made it known that they were looking to reduce their workforce. So, instead of paying severance or unemployment compensation, they create policies to make their employees miserable in which they are forced to resign.

    As a result of the constant micromanagement and criticism, I did call it quits. The supervisor walked around like a roaring lion seeking whom she may devour. She was divisive and indecisive…never giving credit to employees who exceeded expectations. Promotions were only granted to the ingratiable whether their job performance met the standard or not. The amount of stress and emotional abuse was incredible.

    Quitting proved to be quite liberating. I’m glad that my days at Mayo are over.

  5. Anonymous

    When I worked at Mayo Clinic, I experienced an incessant amount of micromanaging by a supervisor who was well versed in playing the blame game and being overly critical in effort to compensate for her overall incompetency.

    My every move was monitored. Even my bathroom breaks were questioned. Leadership engaged in a management style that promoted fear and intimidation. The service values of mutual respect, teamwork, communication, innovation, integrity, etc. were abandoned in favor of promoting fear and intimidation.

    The numerous complaints to Human Resources department amounted to a waste of time. Ultimately, the HR officials align themselves with their narcissistic managers.

    It is true that they force you to resign. A few years ago, they made it known that they were looking to reduce their workforce. So, instead of paying severance or unemployment compensation, they create policies to make their employees miserable in which they are forced to resign.

    As a result of the constant micromanagement and criticism, I did call it quits. The supervisor walked around like a roaring lion seeking whom she may devour. She was divisive and indecisive…never giving credit to employees who exceeded expectations. Promotions were only granted to the ingratiable whether their job performance met the standard or not. The amount of stress and emotional abuse was incredible.

    Quitting proved to be quite liberating. I’m glad that my days at Mayo are over.

  6. Anonymous

    HR is a joke

    Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can confide in HR. They are not your friend. HR is management support. There is one HR administrator in particular at MCJ that abused her power. She covered for one the most inept supervisors in that entire organization. She was clearly biased in handling that debacle. Someone typed an anonymous letter listing the many faults of this totally incompetent boss and sent it to her boss. Even though I did not write the letter I was blamed for it. Once that letter was made known, the same bad supervisor began to harass me even more. If I stepped away for my scheduled break, she would go through my desk even my personal belongings. I was so stressed out day in & day out. Whenever you would bring an issue to her attention, she would reply by saying ‘You’re negative.’ She was not good at problem resolution. She would just blame you for voicing your concern. To make matters worse, HR had no regard for the way employees were treated. As long as they can make themselves look good to the public. HR will pretend to address the problem but they are really just part of the problem. Focus groups are formed but nothing results from them. Employees are still angry and disgruntled. HR believes in constructive termination. The best thing about working there is quitting. The day I left was more gratifying than any paycheck I ever got from there. Free At Last!

  7. Anonymous

    offending treatment machines. They transfer witnesses out of town or buy them off. They buy off people they can’t compromise. They make threats against your family members. They follow you with former FBI agents. They photograph your property. They go through your trash to find dirt. They call you employer and make trouble. They hire specialists in computer security and investigation to find dirt and threaten you with it. They have vast servers doing nothing but recording all phone calls “for quality control” if you believe their garbage. OH and they LIE too. They track all your computer usage. All your emails. All the emails that you are sent and all the phone calls you make. With the cameras in places you cannot find and would not believe and face recognition software they track your movements and bathroom usage. You heard right.

    And they hire consultants (like me) to make sure no one person knows how all this stuff works together to insure total control and absolute denyability….because ‘the needs of the patients come’….LAST

    The bigger the organization the bigger the fraud.

  8. Anonymous

    Her Name wasn’t Dianna, was it?

    No, they obviously have more than one incompetent manager whose name begins with a “D.”

  9. Anonymous

    Hi, I do not work at Mayo anymore but a friend who still does told me that Mayo said not to use workman’s comp but to use short term or long term disability only!!!! She said that way you get more money. I could not believe it. She is brainwashed. She acted like that was all right and I was shocked. This is at Mayo Hospital in Scottsdale,AZ. The HR is also very dangerous and not your friend from what I remember. I quit in 2005 and felt like I had left the pit of hell. I heard stories like all the managers were watching a movie comparing Bush to “Hitler” Anyway, T_GEN is a house of horrors where they do animal testing. Some nurses had found a wounded rabbit with a plastic tie around its neck, it had escaped from T-Gen. They cut the tie off and brought the poor animal to an animal sanctuary. Then I heard horror stories about the CEO of T-Gen. He was very rude to his female assistant and she transferred to another T-GEN.(This was outside of Mayo at a popular restaurant) Take care, Anonymous
    Anyway, where my friend lives, we were taking a walk through her parking lot and I saw a license plate with the word CHIMERA. it freaked me out since that Mayo clinic doc had injected sheep blood into another animal and it was a Mayo Dr. in Minnesota. It was the most e-mailed article in the world)Washington Post0 This was just over a year ago when I saw the license plate. T-Gen is located next to the Mayo CLinic at 134th Street and Shea in Scottsdale,AZ. BY for now

  10. Anonymous

    PLEASE STAND WITH ME – Mayo’s criminal and corrupt practice will stop, I do promise

    Please Help Support Me – By all medical statistics I should be dead, but God has spared me because I do have the knowledge, and skill to expose criminal behavior especially in Urology

    WE can expose – I have all my records cover to cover – as I have worked in the field for years and new where and how to get the info – and yesyou are correct records are achived anytime they have issues – I have a paper in my file that state because of administrative requst. Also Mayo seems to mark records they want shared, so uless you state COVER TO COVER you ont get everything. Please stand with me and we can EXPOSE them and let people know what they are doing.

    Thank you
    Georjean Parrish
    see my Face book and linked in – we can do this.

  11. Anonymous

    The meek are getting ready

    watch this space

  12. Anonymous


    We are all TRUSTING people, especially of Mayo doctors, and to find DOCUMENTED & FACTUAL medical records that completely contradict everything we were verbally told to our face – is NOT acceptable.
    WHAT WOULD YOU THINK if you were told in a Mayo Clinic ER you were in an advanced stage of kidney cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes and lungs. Then see “PRESSUMED TRANSITIONAL CANCER” and only “RENAL MASS” on your medical records.
    Remember, the facts are:
    I have no left kidney and all associated parts.
    BUT, I am a SURVIVOR of Septic shock, organ and resp failure, spent 20+ days on life support/ventalator 3 months in Mayo. Then rec’d registered letter refusing to treat me as of 4/30/2010, because I ask questions and wanted to understand al that had happened to me. Well this is the only Dr we were allowed to see from Urology.
    Please excuse the background noise, and my tone. I think anyone hearing what I heard would be upset an mad. I really need to share my experience so your are NOT THE NEXT VICTIM. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE FOR ANY PATIENT TO BE TOLD – We need to speak up. Michael & Georjean Parrish
    copy and paste in browser line

  13. Anonymous

    falsified records

    I was terminated from Mayo Clinic on 07/30/2010 for what my supervisors referred to as compromised patient care, the short of it is that I would not stick a patient who requested not to be stuck and called the service to see if the patient”s line could be used, the service approved this and sent the order through. The rn who was covering this patient felt I stepped on her toes and reported me saying that she had spoken with me personally which was untrue, the rn was to busy sitting at the nurse’s station with her arms folded againist her chest and feet up on the desk to even come into the patient’s room. She filed a compliant against me and won. My supervisors said that through their “investigation” that I was at fault could have caused the patient his life ( the patient was discharged the following day) We have been told by our supervisors to always contact the service if there were any questions and even though I did what I was trained to do they did not support me or back me up, this was their way of cleaning house and I’m not the only one who has been cleaned out. Mayo says its number 1 priority is to the patients but it has come down to the almighty dollar. They will support management before the employees even though it is the employees who make them who they are, they use to be a good company to work for but now they let managment run the show, these are people who get power hungry and will violate every mayo policies and turn it against the employee so they can move up the corporate ladder. I’m shocked that the Board of Directors or even for that matter Dr. Noseworthy doesn’t take a look at the turn around status in the Lab Service area and ask why, because if they did those supervisors would be the next ones out looking for another job and collecting unemployment. When you are hired they tell you about the policies but when you get into the department those policies do not exist it is all up to the power driving supervisors. Many past employees who have left Mayo Clinic have said they are happier in their new job roles and would not go back to Mayo for anything, some of these employees have been ther 20+ years so what does this tell you? I know that I will find another job but until then I’m scared, but in the same sense I’m relieved knowing that I will not have too go back to work and wonder “will I get called into the supervisors office today” it was alot of walking on broken glass in the phlebotomy department because you never knew who the next victim would be. Be careful if you are thinking about appying here
    Reply With Quote

  14. Anonymous

    I got it to

    Same story with me to. Didn’t think to much of this site until it happened to me. I thought I was doing a great job from the feedback from patients and other staff. But as soon as the supervisor got promoted she became another person all to gether. Like she had something to proove to management. Like she had to proove she was man enough (mean enough) to fire a long term loyal employee… Makes you wonder what they teach them in supervisors classes because they come out swinging and don’t stop untill someone gets hurt. And forget talking to anyone you thought you knew and trusted! They all treat you like a leper. I think everyone knows that they can fire anyone at any time on a supervisors say so. The godless wimps deserve each other and empty days watching out for # 1. What goes around comes around.

  15. Anonymous


    What is the deal with Mother Mayo thinking they can tell all of their patients, visitors and staff what to do and where to do it? I have never seen a city where one employer has had it’s fingers in so many pots that affect so many people but yet they never get caught in any pies? How is that?

  16. Anonymous

    The Mayo Gets Away With it (NOT!)

    Over the years I’ve often wondered how the Mayo gets away with it but the volume of the truth about the Mayo Clinic drumbeat out there is increasing steadily all the time. The Internet has become a great tool for the ordinary person to fight the rich, the powerful and yes, the corrupt.

    In addition to this site, here are a just a few websites who are exposing the dirty side of the Mayo Clinic’s methods:





  17. Anonymous

    Tell me about it! Once the managers have you in the gunsight everyday you show up to work trying to do good it becomes everyday a nagging question of when you get called in to managment for the bendover and or termination.

  18. Anonymous

    Need a GOOD Labor Attorney

    If you know of a good labor attorney that has been successful against Mother Mayo, then please post it here. I’m in dire need of one, and it seems that all the Rochester attorneys are bought off or Mayo supportive.

  19. Anonymous

    Georjean Parrish Near death experience for needless surgery.

    We are all TRUSTING people, especially of doctors, and to find DOCUMENTED & FACTUAL medical records that completely contradict everything we were verbally told to our face – is NOT acceptable.
    WHAT WOULD YOU THINK if you were told in a Mayo Clinic ER you were in an advanced stage of kidney cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes and lungs. Then see “PRESSUMED TRANSITIONAL CANCER” and only “RENAL MASS” on your medical records.
    Remember, the facts are:
    I have no left kidney and all associated parts.
    BUT, I am a SURVIVOR of Septic shock, organ and resp failure, spent 20+ days on life support/ventalator 3 months in Mayo. Then rec’d registered letter refusing to treat me as of 4/30/2010, because I ask questions and wanted to understand al that had happened to me. Well this is the only Dr we were allowed to see from Urology.
    Please excuse the background noise, and my tone. I think anyone hearing what I heard would be upset an mad. I really need to share my experience so your are NOT THE NEXT VICTIM. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE FOR ANY PATIENT TO BE TOLD – We need to speak up. Michael & Georjean Parrish
    copy and paste in browser line


    Please see my comments on FaceBook MayoClinic wall and discussion – Georjean Parrish – This will stop – we need to stand together and call the news.

  20. Anonymous

    Hinshaw and Culbertson
    333 South Seventh Street
    Suite 2000
    Minneapolis, MN 55402

    It is very likely that they will be able to help, as long as your situation is relatively current.

    Best wishes.

  21. Anonymous

    St. Lukes Hospital Jacksonville

    Stay away from this hospital…..

  22. Anonymous

    St. Luke’s sucks!

    Absolutely! In Oct 2001 and subsequently, St. Luke’s and their Mayo side kicks treated me in a despicable manner, both ethically, morally and medically. There were a few decent people working there trying to do their best for the patients in, obviously, difficult circumstances. From the date of your post, it seems nothing has changed.


  23. Anonymous

    Mayo is one corrupt organization. I know and have read several stories that are horrific experiences of patients in their care. Please stay away, if you have serious heart conditions i suggest Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Stay away from Florida and Arizona Mayo’s in particular. I’ve heard my share of disasters there. They have a reputation for disaster.

    They even accepted a physician there over in Arizona for fellowship who provided them with false publications, a crappy resume ( I saw it and laughed), and couldn’t communicate one proper word of English.

  24. Anonymous

    I developed clinical anxiety and depression as a result of workplace bullying here. Went to employee health and was told by their Mayo physician that it sounded like bullying. HR did nothing about it and said I had to go back to my torture chamber or be fired. My anxiety peaking, because now I was “really gonna get it”. I was fired today after 9 successful years here, and 9 months in a new area. I previously had excellent reviews. It depends on the area, but don’t look to HR. Just quit before they force you into a profile. Bad Mayo for the holidays. I recorded all of my bullying but HR refuses to listen.

  25. Anonymous

    Stay away from the Mayo Clinic – they bully patients and employees and deserve to be shut down. Again, heed my warning: stay away.

  26. Anonymous

    Unfortunately, as a recently resigned former employee, I can only agree with much of what has been stated here. I began my career at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, nearly 9 years ago. I began with so much excitement and enthusiasm. My family has working ties with the founding Mayo family and my grandmother was a benefactor. I grew up with the stories of the Mayo brothers, the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, and the amazing family of health care providers that evolved into the world renowned Mayo Clinic. Nine years ago, I had no reason to believe that the institution by which I had just become employed was anything but spectacular. I took a significant cut in pay, to obtain a position at Mayo with “benefits” for my family, which we lacked at the time, as I was recently widowed with young children and forced into the “breadwinner” role. Had I known then, what I know now, I’d have spent that pay cut to purchase health care coverage and continued to enjoy my previous nursing position!

    Please take note that I am speaking of only 9 years of personal experience as a Mayo Clinic employee. Others have endured much worse, for a much longer period of time! During my nine years I experienced workplace harassment/bullying from my immediate supervisor(s) and department physicians that led to incredible anxiety, depression and eventual hospitalization. At one point, I was forced to sign a form acknowledging that I had made an error 4 months prior, to which I’d never previously been told of or been questioned about… an error which would normally be addressed within days of an occurance. I now know that it never happened and other coworkers were experiencing similar disciplinary actions without cause, to force us out or thin the population of LPNs. These tactics caused what we now refer to as “the time of mass exodus”. Later, after being hospitalized and expending all FMLA, I was forced to reduce my FTE to preserve my position and sanity. At one time, I was trained into a new position for which I was to receive higher pay. When I realized that my pay had not yet been increased and that a pay raise I had noted was, in fact, only an annual standard of living wage increase, I approached HR. After a meeting with the notorious supervisor and our HR service partner (who supervisor is friends with and photographed with on Facebook), it was determined that my training module had not yet been “signed off” by my supervisor, which would have initiated my pay increase over a year prior. So, it was determined that I was competent to practice in the new role alone (without a training preceptor) for over a year, but not having a signature on a piece of paper stating that my training was in fact, complete, kept me from receiving back pay… Ok, I accepted responsibility for not following through and submitting an informal training packet, but I know that this was not an institutional standard and was handled that way due to the supervisor and HR Rep’s out of the workplace relationship. Additionally, I was forced to work for and cater to infantile and narcissistic Physicians who treated allied health staff like incompetent children. I witnessed and reported several occurances of patient safety concerns and experienced the managerial backlash for doing so, to which management went to great lengths to sweep under the rug. There was little consistency or dependability with supervisor follow through, no matter what the issue. I was belittled and felt “dumbed down”. I was forced to work under conditions that were unsafe for myself, caused me physical injury and put patients at risk. I witnessed and reported inappropriate handling of tissue specimens, errors in documentation, and unhygienic handling of equipment involved in invasive patient procedures, for which I observed no significant policy changes enforced to prevent further occurances. I eventually became so absolutely disgusted with not only my immediate department, but with the institution as a whole. I have never been happier than the day I gave resignation! Day after day of feeling that I was a patient factory line worker- gone! Day after day of witnessing suboptimal care-gone! Day after day of watching the Mayo Brother’s creation be crushed by the profit mongering leadership of today- gone! I have not yet mentioned the suboptimal care that I myself received as a post-op patient, the lack of continuity, lack of communication between department care providers, or an incidence of breech of confidentiality by another employee of my protected health information, that I complained of and was never addressed. I’m not at all surprised by others’ comments here. I’m just especially thankful that I had the opportunity to resign and choose better for myself. That I wasn’t unjustly fired as some have described, after many years of service.

  27. Anonymous

    This is absolutely amazing! This is happening to me now as a Mayo employee to the point of receiving threatening texts at home, minding my own business. Mayo will not do anything about it. It’s not only tolerated but almost seems to be rewarded. Help!!!

  28. Anonymous

    Me too!!

  29. Anonymous

    I was railroaded by the Mayo Mafia. They will look for ways to either make you want to quit or simply fire you. All the documenting in world could not have saves me. They are crooked and I look forward to the day of its reckoning.

  30. Anonymous

    This has been happening to me and some of my co-workers for years. Just called HR today and got the run a round “it’s up to supervisors discretion.” What a place

  31. Anonymous

    I can’t believe I came upon this site!! Towards the end of my six and a half years of employment at Mayo, I thought I was being paranoid or going crazy or something. I had my supervisor writing me up for every little thing and others were doing the same thing with nothing. (Things like looking at my cell phone – even though it was out of patient view and was for a few seconds to make sure my kids at home for that day hadn’t messaged me, or not being fast enough with certain tasks – even though I was just a quick as most and there were others much slower than I was.) I can’t believe the politics that goes on in such a place that supposedly is all about great patient care. Oh and just as icing on the cake MY medical record was accessed by someone who had no business being in my chart. I found out because this person mailed someone else’s records to my HOME!! I reported it and never heard anything about it again. Doesn’t give me great confidence in the level of confidentiality.

  32. Anonymous

    Mayo is not smart enough to take care of patients first as they proclaim. When they get caught, they immediately go to lock down, shred documents, pressure actual caregivers to document lies and do anything money can buy to make everything “nice” again.

    This happens all the time. They have been doing dirty work for years ever since Mayo Brothers died and the Nuns got bought out. See our experience and hope it doesn’t happen to you!!

    Family details daughter’s escape from Mayo Clinic
    Parents break teen out of world-famous hospital
    August 13, 2018, 8:32 am

    One winter afternoon last year, Duane Engebretson sat in his stepdaughter’s hospital room at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, trying to figure out how she could escape.

    Alyssa Gilderhus, 18 and a senior in high school, had been a patient at Mayo for about two months, ever since having a ruptured brain aneurysm on Christmas Day.

    Mayo neurosurgeons saved her life, but she and her parents were unhappy with the care she was receiving in the rehabilitation unit, and they say they repeatedly asked for her to be transferred.

    But they say Mayo refused to let her transfer to another hospital, even after a lawyer wrote a letter asking Mayo to make the arrangements.

    Alyssa and her family began to suspect that Mayo was trying to get a guardian appointed to make medical decisions for her. They were right: Hospital staffers would later tell police that they had gone to two county adult protection agencies to make guardianship arrangements.

    Duane and his wife, Amber Engebretson, weren’t sure how to get their daughter out of Mayo. Two nurses had been assigned to watch over her at all times.

    But on February 28, 2017, an idea struck Duane as he sat in Alyssa’s hospital room.

    He looked at one of the nurses. She had been with them a few weeks before, when Alyssa’s great-grandmother had come for a visit.

    Betty Stalheim was 80. She’d just had knee surgery. She was fragile.

    If he told the nurses that Grandma Betty wanted to visit but couldn’t make it all the way upstairs to Alyssa’s room, it might just sound believable, he figured.

    He put his plan into action about 4 p.m., with his 9-year-old daughter, Allie, secretly videotaping with a small GoPro camera hidden in her hand. He told CNN he wanted the videotape to show that Alyssa had left the hospital willingly and that he hadn’t been violent with staff, and to record actions taken by Mayo employees.

    Duane told the nurses he wanted to take Alyssa downstairs to say hello to Grandma Betty in the lobby.

    The video shows Duane pushing Alyssa in her wheelchair down the hospital hallway. She has a bandage on her neck where her breathing tube had been removed a few days before.

    Two women in scrubs follow them.

    When the group arrives in the lobby, there is no Grandma Betty.

    Duane says he sees Grandma Betty’s car at the entrance and walks out the hospital doors with the two staff members trailing behind him.

    As he approaches the car, the front passenger door opens.

    There is no Grandma Betty. She was never there. Instead, Alyssa’s mother is in the driver’s seat.

    “Alyssa, we’re going to go home, honey. Come on,” Amber says to her daughter.

    As Duane helps his stepdaughter out of the wheelchair and into the passenger seat, the two women in scrubs run toward her, and someone yells, “No!”

    “Yes, she is! Yes, she is!” Duane and Amber yell back.

    The video shows a hand grabbing Alyssa’s arm as Duane helps her into the car. A nursing aide would later tell police she had tried to grab her.

    “Get your hands off my daughter,” Duane yells at the aide.

    Duane closes the car door and gets in the back seat.

    “Get out of here, Amber,” he tells his wife. “Go, go, go, go, go, go!”

    The car drives away from Mayo.

    Recalling her escape some months later, Alyssa says it felt “phenomenal.”

    “It was like the biggest weight off my shoulders,” she said.
    ‘We have a patient abduction’

    At 4:28 p.m., a Rochester Police dispatcher received a call from Mayo Clinic security.

    “We have a patient abduction,” the caller said.

    An officer arrived on the scene 20 minutes later.

    A Mayo social worker told him that Alyssa “cannot make decisions for herself” and that her mother couldn’t care for her “because Amber has mental health issues.”

    The social worker also told police she “understood there was no formal diagnosis” for Amber.

    Amber told CNN she has no history of mental illness and took offense to the social worker making such an unqualified pronouncement.

    “It’s absolutely absurd,” Amber said. “She said it to the police department. She has no reasoning. She has no justification.”

    The social worker told the police she’d been working with adult protection services in two Minnesota counties “trying to get emergency guardianship” but had been unable to get court orders to do so.

    An Olmsted County Adult Protective Services official told police that “Mayo was requesting [assistance] in gaining guardianship of Alyssa because they were concerned for the mother’s mental health and the medical decisions that were being made for Alyssa.”

    But something didn’t quite make sense to John Sherwin, captain of investigations for the Rochester Police Department.

    If Alyssa couldn’t make decisions for herself, as the social worker had said, and if she needed a legal guardian appointed for her, then who had been making decisions for her while she was in the hospital?

    When police asked that question of Mayo staffers, Sherwin said, they replied that Alyssa had been making her own medical decisions.

    “When doctors were consulting with her in regards to her medical care, they weren’t doing so through a guardian or someone that had been appointed by the courts. It was in direct contact with the patient,” Sherwin said.

    He said it became clear to investigators that Alyssa “in fact could make decisions on her own” — including the decision to leave the hospital against medical advice.

    “There was no abduction. This was done under her own will,” he said. “You had a patient that left the hospital under their own planning.”

    Though satisfied that Alyssa was capable of making her own decisions, Sherwin still was concerned about her health.

    “What was relayed to us [by Mayo staff] was that the patient was in danger of dying if they were not in the hospital,” Sherwin said.

    Mayo sent the police an order for a 72-hour hold, which allows police to admit someone to a hospital emergency room against their will if they’re a danger to themselves.

    But first, the police had to find Alyssa.
    Police search for Alyssa

    Alyssa and her parents were on the run. They weren’t answering their cell phones, and they weren’t at home, either.

    They later told CNN they figured the police would bring Alyssa to a hospital, and given the large number of Mayo facilities in Minnesota, there was a good chance that hospital would be a Mayo hospital.

    “We felt that if [Mayo] got their hands on her, they would latch on and we wouldn’t get her back again,” Duane said.

    Unable to find the family, the police pinged their cell phones. This pointed them to an Applebee’s restaurant in Mankato, Minnesota, about 85 miles west of Rochester. Officers searched the restaurant and a nearby Five Guys but couldn’t find Alyssa, according to a Mankato police report.

    It turned out the ping was a bit off: The family was down the street at Walmart, purchasing a wheelchair, a walker and a syringe for Alyssa’s feeding tube, which Duane says he’d been trained to use. They then checked into a nearby hotel.

    While at the hotel, the family received a phone call from a Martin County sheriff’s deputy. They say they told the deputy that their daughter was doing well, and they planned to bring her to a doctor the next day to get her checked.

    The deputy said that wasn’t good enough. He told them they were on their way to them, according to the family.

    Alyssa and her parents scrambled and left the hotel.

    It was now almost 9 p.m., and nearly five hours had passed since they’d left Mayo. The family was on the road with three police agencies — Rochester, Mankato and Martin County — on their heels.

    As Alyssa’s stepfather drove down the highway, a sheriff’s deputy called, urging them to bring their daughter to a hospital right away. They told him they’d bring her to a hospital in Jackson, about 75 miles away.

    But then, the family reconsidered. They’d chosen Jackson because it had a hospital that wasn’t owned by Mayo. But they feared that the doctors there might transfer her to a Mayo facility.

    After the calls from police, Alyssa’s parents figured out that their phones were being pinged and took the batteries out.

    They got off the highway and drove on gravel roads without a map.

    “I just kept heading west. I knew I would run into South Dakota sooner or later,” he said.
    ‘This kid is in danger’

    The next afternoon, March 1, one of Alyssa’s doctors, a pediatric rehabilitation specialist at Mayo, spoke on the phone with Sherry Bush-Seim, a Rochester police investigator.

    The doctor warned that Alyssa was in grave danger.

    “The longer she’s away, the higher likelihood that she’s gonna get very, very sick,” the physician said, according to a transcript of the conversation that police provided to CNN.

    The day Alyssa left Mayo, that doctor and a colleague had written a discharge note.

    “Alyssa’s medical condition, medical status, cognition, and physical impairments require an ongoing inpatient level of medical care,” the doctors wrote. “She was not medically or functionally safe to leave the hospital at the time of her removal from the hospital by her stepfather.”

    Alyssa was at risk for pneumonia, malnourishment, dehydration, aspiration, infection and falling, according to the note. She didn’t have her medications with her, and her parents weren’t trained on how to use her feeding tube, according to the discharge summary.

    The doctor said Alyssa was probably “a ways from here by now” and requested a wider-scale search.

    “[It’s] incredibly frustrating that something isn’t out nationally given that [this] family may be hopping from doctor to doctor,” the doctor said.

    “We wouldn’t do that nationally,” Bush-Seim responded. “That wouldn’t be done.”

    Without a national search, the doctor said, “we’re not gonna find her.”

    Bush-Seim assured the physician that the Rochester police had “done everything they possibly could to find her.”

    “There’s got to be something more. This kid is in danger,” Alyssa’s doctor responded.
    The police back off

    But other doctors disagreed with the Mayo physician.

    Less than 12 hours after leaving Mayo, she and her parents arrived at the emergency room for Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls, a teaching hospital for the University of South Dakota.

    They explained to Sanford doctors that she’d had an aneurysm and left Mayo against medical advice, according to medical records from that emergency room visit.

    The Sanford doctors disagreed with the Mayo doctors on two crucial points.

    Although Mayo doctors had insisted that Alyssa needed to be in the hospital, the Sanford doctors came to the opposite conclusion: They prescribed Alyssa medications, gave instructions for her to follow up with a doctor and told her she could go home.

    Mayo had determined that Alyssa lacked the mental capacity to make her own decisions. The Sanford doctors again came to the opposite conclusion: They allowed her to make her own decisions and sign her own forms consenting to treatment.

    When police learned that a hospital had cleared Alyssa to go home, they stepped aside.

    “If a doctor at another facility says she’s fine and comes up with a second opinion, that kind of takes the law out of it,” said Chris Vasvick, a Martin County sheriff’s deputy. “That’s one doctor’s opinion against another, and that doesn’t have anything to do with law enforcement at all.”

    Sherwin, the Rochester detective, agreed.

    “We didn’t have any reason for the police to intervene,” Sherwin said.

    He added that Alyssa and her parents had done nothing illegal. No charges were filed against them.

    “As parents, they were probably thinking that they were acting on her best interest. I think the same could be said for the doctors and staff at Mayo Clinic. I think that they also felt they were acting on her best interest,” Sherwin said.

    A few days after her visit to the Sanford emergency room, Alyssa and her parents went home.

    A letter from Mayo was waiting for them, thanking Duane for getting in touch with the patient experience office.

    The family found it ironic, given that it was dated March 1, the day after Alyssa left the hospital.

    A few days later, another letter arrived from an administrator at Mayo, saying that it would not treat Alyssa or her parents.

    “We have made this decision because of your actions which demonstrate a lack of trust and confidence in Mayo,” the administrator wrote.

    On Facebook, Amber shared that Alyssa’s health was improving.

    “This kid amazes me every day!! And we all could not be more proud!!” she wrote.
    ‘Hospitals aren’t prisons’

    To understand the legal and ethical issues in Alyssa’s case, CNN showed experts key documents, including law enforcement reports; a transcript of portions of CNN’s interview with Sherwin, the detective at the Rochester Police Department; and summaries of her care written by doctors at Mayo and Sanford.

    The experts emphasized that those documents don’t tell the whole story; only a thorough reading of her full medical records and interviews with Mayo staff would provide a complete picture.

    “You’re only hearing one side,” cautioned Dr. Chris Feudtner, a professor of pediatrics, medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

    After reviewing the documents, the experts wondered why Mayo did not allow Alyssa, who was 18 and legally an adult, to leave the hospital when she made clear that she wanted to be transferred, according to the family.

    They said that typically, adult patients have the right to leave the hospital against medical advice, and they can leave without signing any paperwork.

    “Hospitals aren’t prisons. They can’t hold you there against your will,” said George Annas, an attorney and director of the Center for Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights at the Boston University School of Public Health.

    But Alyssa’s doctors say she wasn’t a typical patient.

    “Due to the severity of her brain injury, she does not have the capacity to make medical decisions,” her doctors wrote in her records after she’d left the hospital.

    In that report, the doctors specified that assessments in the last week of her hospital stay showed that she lacked “the capacity to decide to sign releases of information, make pain medication dose changes, and make disposition decisions. This includes signing paperwork agreeing to leave the hospital against medical advice.”

    That hadn’t jibed with the captain of investigations for the Rochester police. Sherwin said it didn’t make sense that Mayo staffers told police Alyssa had been making her own decisions, yet in the discharge note, they stated she wasn’t capable of making her own decisions.

    It didn’t jibe with the experts, either.

    “They can’t eat their cake and have it, too,” said Feudtner, the medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Even if Alyssa truly did lack the capacity to make her own medical decisions, the experts had questions about Mayo’s efforts to obtain emergency guardianship for Alyssa.

    Brian Smith, the Rochester police officer who responded to Mayo’s 911 call the day Alyssa left Mayo, said a Mayo social worker told him she’d been working for a week or two to get a Minnesota county to take guardianship over Alyssa.

    “The county would have guardianship over her and would make decisions for her,” he told CNN.

    If that happened, Alyssa most likely would have stayed at Mayo, as she was already receiving treatment there, Smith said.

    Bush-Seim, the Rochester police investigator, spoke with an official at one of the county adult protection agencies. She said it was also her understanding that Mayo wanted the county to take guardianship of Alyssa, or that perhaps Mayo itself wanted to directly take guardianship of her.

    The legal experts said they were not surprised that Mayo was unable to get court orders for such guardianship arrangements. It’s a drastic and highly unusual step for a county or a hospital to take guardianship over a patient, they said, rather than have a family member become the patient’s surrogate decision-maker.

    Robert McLeod, a Minneapolis attorney who helped the state legislature draft its guardianship laws, did not review the documents pertaining to Alyssa, as he did not want to comment on any specific case.

    He said that before appointing a county or a hospital as a legal guardian, a judge would ask why a family member or close friend hadn’t been selected as a surrogate.

    “From my 25 years of experience, a judge is going to say, ‘why isn’t the family the first and best choice here?’ and it had better be a good reason,” said McLeod, an adjunct professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

    Other experts agreed.

    Saver, the professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, said that in his four years working in the general counsel’s office at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Health System, he doesn’t once remember the hospital seeking guardianship for a patient who had a responsible relative or friend who could act as surrogates.

    “It’s thought of as kind of the atom bomb remedy,” Saver said. “I’m a little flummoxed what to make of this. They had family members on the scene to look to.”

    Alyssa said her biological father, Jason Gilderhus, told her that Mayo asked him to become her guardian. He did not become her guardian and did not respond to CNN’s attempts to reach him.

    Even if Mayo had concerns about Alyssa’s mother and her biological father didn’t work out, there were other friends and relatives to turn to, such as her stepfather, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt or boyfriend’s mother.

    “It’s so baffling why they didn’t try to designate a surrogate before trying to get a guardian,” added Dr. R. Gregory Cochran, a physician and lawyer and associate director of the Health Policy and Law program at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

    Another feature of Alyssa’s case also surprised the experts.

    Caplan, the NYU bioethicist, said that in complicated and contentious cases like this one, doctors typically reach out to their hospital’s ethics committee for help.

    An ethics committee would listen to the doctors, other staff members, the patient and the family to try to resolve the conflict.

    The family says no one ever mentioned an ethics committee to them, and there’s no mention of an ethics committee consult in the discharge summary in Alyssa’s medical records.

    Annas, the lawyer at Boston University, agreed that an ethics committee consultation would have been an obvious and important way to help resolve the dispute before it spun out of control.

    “Disputes between families and hospital staff happen all the time, and they can either escalate or de-escalate,” Annas said. “An ethics consult can help sort out the issues so they de-escalate.”

    The experts said they were disappointed that in Alyssa’s case, the conflict escalated.

    “I was shocked to see that parents had to pull a fast one to get their daughter out of the hospital,” said Cochran, of the University of California.

    “I felt sad,” said Feudtner, the ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania. “Viewed in its entirety, this did not go well for anybody who was involved.”

    Gaalswyk, the former Mayo board member, said he hopes the hospital learns something.

    “I hope that someone somewhere will look at what happened in this unfortunate case and improve both our Mayo employee’s actions and patient systems so that it not need happen again to any other patient at Mayo,” he wrote a Mayo vice president after Alyssa left the hospital. “The situation need not get out of hand like it did.”
    Being ‘held hostage in an American hospital’

    While the details of Alyssa’s case are extraordinary — the Grandma Betty trick, the escape from the hospital with police on their heels — the core of her story is not uncommon in many ways, according to patient advocates.

    Dr. Julia Hallisy, founder of the Empowered Patient Coalition, says families often tell her that a hospital won’t allow their loved one to transfer to another facility. Often, they’re afraid to say anythigng publicly or on social media.

    “You sound like a crazy person — that your family member was held hostage in an American hospital,” she said. “People can’t believe that would happen. It’s like the stuff of a science fiction story.”

    Kristen Spyker said it happened to her family.

    When Spyker’s son was born with a rare heart defect, she says she told doctors at the Ohio hospital where he was born that she wanted him to have a surgical repair at a hospital with a larger pediatric heart program.

    She said the heart surgeon at the first hospital refused to send her son’s medical records to other hospitals. She also says a surgeon resisted her efforts to transfer her newborn son to another hospital to get a second opinion on what surgery he should have for a rare heart defect.

    “The surgeon said, ‘This is my patient. This is my show. I’m the boss, and I say what happens,’ ” she said.

    She said a social worker, accompanied by hospital security guards, then came into her son’s hospital room and said she was worried that Spyker had postpartum depression that was affecting her ability to make decisions for her son’s care.

    Spyker said the hospital discharged her son only after she threatened legal action.

    Her son then had a successful procedure at another hospital — a different procedure than the one recommended by the first doctor.

    When she told her story on Facebook, Spyker said, other parents shared similar stories.

    “It was parent after parent after parent saying ‘this happened to us,'” she said. “They had been so embarrassed to talk about it, but they felt freer when I said it happened to us.”

    Spyker was one of several people who spoke with Alyssa’s parents last year while their daughter was at Mayo.

    In a statement to CNN, the American Hospital Association addressed conflicts between families and hospitals.

    “Communication between physicians and patients is extremely important in working to identify the best treatment,” said Dr. Jay Bhatt, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the organization. “Each patient is unique. It is for this reason that the majority of hospitals have patient advocates on staff to help patients and families navigate the care process. Hospitals recognize that patients are critical members of any care team and many are employing new strategies to ensure their voice and perspective is heard and accounted for.”

    When hospitals and families get into intense conflict, Hallisy, a dentist who practices in San Francisco, says human emotions can run amok. She says she saw it happen when her daughter, Katherine, was being treated for cancer.

    “People think that doctors are immune to petty disagreements, but they’re human beings, and sometimes ego and primitive emotions take over,” she said.

    She said that in Alyssa’s case, she wonders whether a sensitive hospital staffer, perhaps a social worker, could have prevented the situation from becoming as contentious as it did.

    She thinks back to her daughter, who died at age 10. She remembers the sadness and fear of having a very sick child, as well as the stress of taking care of her two other children and keeping her dental practice afloat while her daughter was in and out of the hospital.

    She thinks about how Alyssa was near death and how her parents had five younger children 130 miles away, as well as farms and a family business to run.

    “They were under incredible stress,” Hallisy said. “They’d almost lost a child, and they had other responsibilities, too. You would think that someone at Mayo would be trained to see that.”
    The prom queen graduates

    More than a year after leaving the Mayo Clinic, Alyssa, now 20, has belied her “grim prognosis.”

    Last year, she graduated from Martin County West High School, receiving a standing ovation from her class. She stayed out all night at her senior prom, where her classmates voted her prom queen. The local chapter of Future Farmers of America gave her the Star Farmer award.

    Her feeding tube came out a few months after she left Mayo, and she can eat and speak normally now. She can walk on her own without any assistance. Last summer, she presented her fantail pigeons at the Minnesota State Fair and competed in the poultry princess competition.

    She finished up her physical and speech therapy in March, about a year after leaving Mayo. She’ll be a freshman at Southwest Minnesota State University in September.

    Alyssa has not filed a lawsuit, but has engaged Martin, the lawyer who is also representing the Pelletier family.

    Alyssa and her parents say they haven’t recovered emotionally from what happened at Mayo. They say they still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, panicked about what would have happened if they hadn’t snuck her out of the hospital.

    “I think she would be [at the hospital] and nobody would be able to see her,” her stepfather said.

    They say Mayo still hasn’t given them an explanation for why it was trying to arrange guardianship for Alyssa.

    They think Mayo was trying to get guardianship in retaliation for questioning the staff, especially a senior physician.

    “I think that the doctor I made mad wanted to make sure that I paid for it no matter what,” her mother said.

    She’s told that’s a pretty hefty accusation.

    “We stand by it 100 percent,” her stepfather said.