Texas prosecutor charges nurses for reporting doctor

by Ted Frank on February 8, 2010

Two Winkler County nurses filed accusations of problematic practices against Doctor Rolando G. Arafiles Jr. before the Texas Medical Board in April; a prosecutor who was friends with the doctor has now charged the two with a felony, “misuse of official information.” Local and national nursing associations have protested and established a legal defense fund. (Kevin Sack, “Nurse to Stand Trial for Reporting Doctor”, New York Times, Feb. 6; KFDA (undated)). It’s possible that the nurses made false accusations maliciously, but that seems something that could be handled through civil suits and then only after the Texas Medical Board adjudicated the complaints. Such overreaching by doctors could backfire, as it would give credence to the proposition that medical malpractice lawsuits are a necessary check to incompetent doctors.

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Winkler County nurses trial, cont’d
02.11.10 at 8:39 am

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1 VMS 02.08.10 at 10:26 am

I believe that Doctor Rolando G. Arafiles, Jr. couldn’t care less about the possible effect of his overreaching on medical malpractice lawsuits. In any event, this extreme example is tangentially related to the problem of Departments of Health failing to properly investigate complaints against bad doctors. It does however highlight the chilling effect that nurses and other non-physician health professionals face as to whether or not to report medical misconduct or adverse events. It has been my experience that nurses often don’t report so-called “reportable events” on their own although they should. Every state has a list of these reportable events, but many physicians and hospitals just don’t report, or they underreport them. But when they are involved in a lawsuit, nurses rarely cover for the physician or the hospital and the truth comes out of why the elderly patient was put back in bed after falling with no treatment for her fractured hip.

2 Bumper 02.08.10 at 1:39 pm

If just 50% of what I have read previously about this is true, then the prosecutor better have a some real Perry Mason evidence for their case OR the doctor-hospital-sheriff-prosecutor are in for a world of hurt. Probably couldn’t happen to a more deserving group.

3 save_the_rustbelt 02.08.10 at 2:30 pm

If you need to select a physician, if possible ask some nurses.

Most nurses I have worked with (as well as my wife) have a list of docs they would never ever allow to treat them.

4 Tac e 02.08.10 at 8:10 pm

The AMA has a policy that no one can report misconduct of a doctor to them except another doctor. Doctor’s do not report their own and they know full well who their bad apples are. Then they complain about their malpractice premiums. As long as they cover for their bad apples in their profession then they have to cover their premiums. Instead of tort reform doctor’s need to polices their own and when they do tort reform will be irrelavant. But, doctor’s want their cake and eat it too. There is a sign in Macon, Ga. on the interstate with a picture of a nurse and it says “you need a doctor, ask a nurse”.
A doctor can report a nurse for any reason of questionable practice but God forbid a nurse report a doctor. Hospitals know who their bad apples are and they can do something about. The hospitals know who the doctor’s are that get sued over and over and it is because the same doctor’s are bad doctor’s. The hospitals have to renew staffing privileges annually and if they would not give the privileges to repeat offenders it would stop patients from injury. Also medicare and medicaid can redraw reimbursments at any given time. If they would stop reimbursments from hospitals that keep renewing staffing privileges for bad doctor’s then tort reform willl take care of itself. We don’t need the republicans bringing about tort reform. We need what is on the books enforced. Tort reform will not get rid of bad doctor’s not stop patients from injuries that changes their lives. Our justice system is so suppose to be so great that Senator Spector wants it on stage trying the terrorist in New York. If it is so great then why change it concerning malpractice. I believe our judges are competent enough decide in the hearing if a case is frivilous. If the republicans change tort reform we will have a medical disaster in this land that cannot be changed because Washington doesn’t change what they do.
I have a neighbor who had surgery 2 years ago. He did not know when he went into surgery that the surgeon about to do his surgery had just lost a patient on the table who had the same surgery. The surgeon had cut an artery in the abdomen and the only case the surgeon did the day before cut the same artery and she died on the table. My neighbor is now confined to a wheel chair and has speech impairment since his artery was cut also. This is not frivilous and I am a 33 year veteran nurse and I have seen many, many more of these kind of blunders. The doctors settle out of court and you never know if you have been referred to one of these. Beleive me you doctore will refer you to a bad apple knowing they are a bad apple. But, your doctor will not go to that bad apple for him or herself nor will they send a loved one to that person.
ASK A NURSE FOR A DOCTOR.

5 Bill Poser 02.08.10 at 10:26 pm

As the son of a doctor who has seen a lot of medical life, other things being equal, I would tend to believe the nurses, who are less likely than doctors to be prima donnas, irresponsible, or malicious. I also note that the news accounts of this case don’t mention any motivation for the nurses to have been out to get the doctor.

6 Dr. Mary Johnson 02.09.10 at 8:20 am

From what I understand, it’s a small town run by a bunch of interconnected good-ole-boys.

That’s all you need for a good old-fashioned malicious prosecution of someone who upset their apple-cart.

7 Orac 02.09.10 at 9:02 am

It’s possible that the nurses made false accusations maliciously, but that seems something that could be handled through civil suits and then only after the Texas Medical Board adjudicated the complaints. Such overreaching by doctors could backfire, as it would give credence to the proposition that medical malpractice lawsuits are a necessary check to incompetent doctors.

“Possible” in the same way that it’s “possible” that homeopathy works–in other words, incredibly unlikely. Methinks you give far too much credence to the prosecution’s idiotic claims. This is an example of the good ol’ boy system punishing uppity nurses for daring to take on one of its own:

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/02/report_a_bad_doctor_to_the_authorities_g.php

Personally, I hope that not only is Mitchell found not guilty but that Mitchell and Galle’s civil lawsuit put Dr. Arafile, the sheriff, the county prosecutor, and Winkler County Hospital in a world of hurt for their outrageous, unethical, and quite possibly illegal actions.

As for the medical malpractice angle, well, yes. If state medical boards can’t stop bad physicians and if rogue sheriffs can punish those who report physicians to the state medical boards, thereby intimidating others into silence, well then, yes, it would appear that malpractice suits are all that would be left.

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