Friday, February 12, 2010

Texas case puts chill in the air

A friend recently shared an article from the New York Times about a nurse, who faces a felony charge for anonymously reporting a physician to a state medical board.

The nurse faces up to 10 years for "misuse of official information." She wrote an anonymous letter to Texas regulators about a physician at her rural hospital.

She contends she had a professional obligation to protect patients from what she witnessed at the hospital. Prosecutors intend to show at trial that she had a history of making "inflammatory" statements about the doctor and intended to damage his reputation.

While reading this story, I couldn't comprehend that a medical complaint would rise to the level of a felony charge against the person making it. I have complained about medical professionals and facilities before. It's something that I believe as a patient and/or a caregiver I have a right to do.

It's simple. If something is bad, tell the people in charge. If they don't do anything, go to the next level, etc.

In Texas, it might not be that simple. This case is significant, because it's not a patient or a family member who has blown the whistle. It's a nurse. A nurse, who with access to medical charts and with a trained medical background, could provide a complaint against a physician or medical organization in greater detail than a patient or family member.

The nurse on trial and another one have lost their jobs over the complaints. If all this can happen to a nurse, what will happen to patients and family members who complain about the quality of their medical care and the people who provide it? This is one trial I hope the prosecution can't prove.

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