West Texas Nurses to Face Trial

via the New York Times:

It occurred to Anne Mitchell as she was writing the letter that she might lose her job, which is why she chose not to sign it. But it was beyond her conception that she would be indicted and threatened with 10 years in prison for doing what she knew a nurse must: inform state regulators that a doctor at her rural hospital was practicing bad medicine.

. . .

But in what may be an unprecedented prosecution, Mrs. Mitchell is scheduled to stand trial in state court on Monday for “misuse of official information,” a third-degree felony in Texas.

The prosecutor said he would show that Mrs. Mitchell had a history of making “inflammatory” statements about Dr. Rolando G. Arafiles Jr. and intended to damage his reputation when she reported him last April to the Texas Medical Board, which licenses and disciplines doctors.

I can see that Dr. Arafiles might be upset about a complaint against his license, but a criminal prosecution?  I can’t imagine thinking about pulling the same stunt with a nursing client, yet I have seen nurses in from of the Disciplinary and Eligibility Committee who had causes of action for defamation MUCH stronger that what has been reported in this case.

Come to think of it, I think Anne Mitchell has a more compelling case for defamation, abuse of process and any number of other causes of action against Dr. Arafiles, the hospital, Winkler County, the sheriff and prosecutor.  And her attorney’s have filed those causes of action.  But those are civil causes of action and only cost money.  Ms. Mitchell has her freedom at stake.  And after the prosecution, she (and Vickilyn Galle, the other party charged initially) will have to fight for her career, too.  I hope the Texas Board of Nursing will send as clear a message as the Texas Medical Board when the Medical Board addressed the issue in a letter to prosecutors:

Mari E. Robinson, executive director of the Texas Medical Board, has warned in a blistering letter to prosecutors that the case will have “a significant chilling effect” on the reporting of malpractice.

Good luck to Ms. Mitchell!

Marc

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