There’s a disturbing case in Texas, involving two whistle-blowing nurses who reported a physician to the Texas Medical Board (TMB).
Apparently, they took offense at the physician who was peddling herbal medications in the emergency room, among other deeds. Unable to convince hospital administration to discipline him, they reported him to the Board.
And here’s where it gets disturbing.
Angered by the action, the physician then filed a criminal complaint, alleging harassment. According to hospitalist Chris Rangel, who covered the case, “the two nurses were indicted for misusing privately protected patient information for a non-governmental and nefarious reason (to harm a private citizen),” which is considered “a third-degree felony that carries potential penalties of 2 to 10 years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000.”
Once they were identified, they had very little legal protection, and now both nurses face a real possibility of jail time. They are currently free on bond.
Dr. Rangel and David Gorski, who blogged about the case over at Better Health, both come down hard on the TMB. Indeed, Dr. Rangel writes, “the so-called anonymity provided by the TMB in the complaint process is largely an illusion and a pathetically weak substitute for real and effective legal protections. In reality, as this case shows, accusers can be easily tracked down and made to suffer.”
Dr. Gorski is no kinder: “This case is bad. Real bad. Nurses and other health care professionals are reluctant enough as it is to report a bad doctor or a doctor peddling dubious therapies as it is. What makes this case particularly outrageous is not only because it appears to be a horrible abuse of power by Sheriff Roberts, but, even worse, it sends the clear and unmistakable message to nurses in Texas: Don’t get out of line or the medical powers that be will make you pay.”
A tragic case, and hopefully the impetus for some reforms within the Board.