As a malpractice lawyer, I hear the claim that my medical malpractice claims are frivolous. My perspective is skewed. Once I represented the family of a child who spent three of his first four hours of life in the morgue. The child is alive today. It was the most egregious malpractice case I have ever seen. While flying back to the office from the first deposition in the case, the defense attorney suggested that I would do better to focus my energies on one of my "meritorious cases." His comment convinced me that his judgment was impaired. I decided to ignore anything he would say in the future.
I used to say that a "frivolous case" was one in which you were the defendant. Anyone can describe any meritorious as frivolous. It isn't hard.
The criminal prosecution of Anne Mitchell and her former co-defendant Vicki Galle, my two new heroes, is the most absurd filing I have seen in my career. Whether the scope of its absurdity can be reduced to a list of reasons is unclear. It puts the public health at risk. It betrays the mission of the courts, law enforcement, and several state institutions. All of the professionals on the prosecution side of this case have betrayed common sense, the public health, the public interest and their professional obligations.
Even a cursory review of the statutes and regulations cited in the Federal Complaint filed by the nurses shows that the actions of the nurses is legally protected. I probably will never visit Kermit, Texas. Apparently, the law means nothing there.
45 CFR 164.512(d).
Texas Administrative Code 217.19
Finally the national media is beginning to notice this absurd abuse of our legal system.
A New York Times Editorial:
Susan Donaldson James' piece for ABC News has attracted over 200 comments
Tiffany O'Callaghan blogs for Time magazine:http://wellness.blogs.time.com/2010/02/09/nurse-in-legal-trouble-for-reporting-doctor/#comments
Kevin Sack's thorough article for the New York Times has been republished all over the country
Tara Parker Popes' blog accompanying Kevin Sack's masterpiece of an article has generated 150 comments
NPR's Michele Norris interviews Kevin Sack here:
PalMD offers several provocative insights on his WhiteCoatUnderground Blog here
Erin Geiger Smith writes a terrific piece for the Business Insider
Amy McGuire's thoughtful update of an article in Advance for Nurses discusses the impact the case has had on the nursing community
Durango just became my favorite offbeat writer, posting a performance of Dr. Arafiles on a religious television channel
Rebecca Hendren correctly worries about this dangerous precedent for Healthleaders Media
Nurse lawyer Taralynn Mackay writes:
I saved the best for last.
"As nurses, the first duty is to the patient, caring for them and when necessary, protecting them. While doctors take an oath to "first do no harm" sometimes it is nurses who prevent them from doing harm. I've seen it more times than I care to think about in my own practice.
"So what kind of nurse do you want? The one who is watching out for you, or the one who is afraid to watch out for you?
"Shame on the town of Kermit, Texas for their failure to censure an out of control sheriff and for their failure to support the nurses who cared for them.
"Shame on doctor Rolando G. Arafiles Jr!
"Shame on Sheriff Robert L Roberts!
"Shame on Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Texas for firing nurses who care about patients... and keeping doctors who shouldn't.
"BRAVO to Vickilyn Galle and Anne Mitchell. May there always be nurses like you to protect patients from incompetent physicians, especially those who are friends with the sheriff. You are my nursing heroes."
Nurse Heisler, you are right.