Another Defeat for the Texas Medical Board—Court Rules in Favor of Physicians

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Justice signPlaintiffs have accused the Texas Medical Board (TMB) of “pervasive and continuing violations of…constitutional rights”—and a federal court is allowing their suit to go forward.

The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s ruling allows landmark litigation by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) to proceed, so that discovery can begin and AAPS can prove wrongdoing by the Board.

The court specifically noted a number of allegations, which they called “rather dramatic claims”:

  • that the former Board president targeted physicians;
  • that the Board manipulated anonymous complaints; and
  • that anonymous complaints were allegedly filed by a New York insurance company seeking to avoid paying for claims.

In its decision, the Court ruled that “If practiced systemically, such abuses may have violated or chilled AAPS members’ constitutional rights,” and said the lawsuit could offer proof of these misdeeds and could establish a pattern of misconduct.

Physicians brought before a licensure board can be financially ruined by unconstitutional proceedings, even if exonerated, or they can lose their livelihood altogether. Instead of using their enormous power for the purpose of protecting the public, board members can deprive thousands of patients access to good physicians simply because an anonymous complainant held a grudge against the physician, or dislikes freedom in medicine.

TMB argued that only individual physicians had standing to sue. AAPS noted, however, that individuals are typically unable prove a pattern of abuse involving other physicians, so a larger group of physicians is necessary.

AAPS also says that physicians fear retaliation for complaining about the Board. In the words of one Texas physician, “I can’t tell you how fearful doctors are of the TMB. Knowing that with each disgruntled employee, angry neighbor, or aggressive competitor, we could lose our license, the practice of medicine has become one of fear. Thank you for your fight, and I hope many physicians will be sleeping more easily…at least in Texas!”

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  • Louise Esther Rothstein

    Similar problems intimidate alternative doctors in Ohio.
    Most do not even know that their European counterparts have organized to oppose efforts to “regulate” alternative therapies to probable destruction if practitioners do not organize.

    Well…

    They organize in Europe.

    It should be happening here.

  • Ogre

    And if they conspired to do this it is a felony. In Pa we have a unique law that basically states that if you sue someone for a criminal act in civil court and prevail, the DA is required to pursue the case in Criminal court.

  • Katherine MacTavish

    Just one more instance of our government committing treason against the people their supposed to be protecting!

  • Vidalia

    It is the governor who appoints these TMB members. They serve at his pleasure. Maybe this is something to keep in mind in four years.

  • M. Atif Rahi, M.D.

    As a physician who practised in Texas since 1997, I did not experience any professional issues prior to moving there. Since 2002, I went through a couple of frivolous complaints against me. The last one was still active when I sold my Private Practice in August 2008. After informing the TX. State Medical Board of my address overseas, I did not receive any communication from them, until my former landlord informed me that the FBI was looking for me. On my visit to Houston in Jan. 2009, I met with the Agent (from the FBI’s Counter Terrorism Task Force), & was told, at the end of my interview with them, that someone had filed an ‘annonymous’ complaint against me, saying I had a pending case before the State Medical Board & that I was trying to flee the country & also that I was a ‘security threat’ (!). I mentioned to the agent that I had no doubt that the Boards’ Attorney, Lee Buckstein, was very likely behind this, as no one else was aware of my case before the Board, although I could not prove this.
    I am now in the process of getting legal representation, so that I can challenge them in a court of law as I’d promised that FBI Agent I would do so, after he asked me whether I would take my case before a judge. Even though the Board dismissed their case against me in SOAH (admin. court), I am willing to spend whatever it takes, to hold to account the individuals behind such shameful acts, done in the name of ‘public service’. Also, at the time of my case in 2008, I wrote letters to the President, George W. Bush, as well as Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee & Kay Bailey Hutchison in Houston, to inform them of the Board’s petty behavior. The TX. Board is arbitrary, excessive, unfair & unethical when it comes to dealing with physicians, bringing a bad name to the great state of Texas in the process.

  • Victim Too

    I’ve experienced the wrath of the medical board too. I am a health practitioner and was not aware I had no rights until I had a complaint filed by an alcoholic patient. I have two friends who have frivolous complaints filed against them and their lives have been turned upside down.

    The medical board is not here to protect citizens, it is here to show how powerful it is and make you regret every trying to help patients. I have thought many times of leaving Texas, but I like living here and do not want to give it up.

    The board does not even follow its own rules. They are supposed to resolve issues in 6 months, but comes up with excuses to drag them out for years. Thus disrupting your life as much as possible.

  • Sandman

    Our practice in south texas (10 board certified anesthesiologists) wound up with anonymous complaints filed against each of us. It took about 10 minutes to figure out mutual of omaha was behind it because each case referenced five patients and each of the five patients was insured by them (this is south texas). It took a year and a half for the medical board to investigate us & at conclusion every doctor came up clean with the board. A few of us had to appear before the board & at that point, we noted a letter from mutual of omaha to the medical board saying “we paid x dollars in each of these years to this south texas group, we think it’s too much & there must be fraud. The list of doctors is 1,2,3,4… and here is the list of patients treated by each doctor”. On that basis, the board sampled patients from each list and pursued formal investigations of 10 doctors with no subsequent finding of wrongdoing. Mutual of Omaha owed the group >$100K at the time, and collecting from them was like pulling teeth.

    I think it’s ridiculous I should have to submit to an 18 month long medical board investigation whenever some insurance company doesn’t feel like paying its bills.

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