I know this case as been making the rounds of the health care blogs, so if you’ve seen it before, you can perhaps safely ignore this post.
For everyone else, do you know what happens when nurses get all uppity and ethical and report a physician for breaches of safe practice? You get arrested and threatened with ten years’ imprisonment:
When veteran nurse Anne Mitchell wrote a confidential letter last year to the Texas Medical Board, complaining about a doctor she thought practiced shoddy medicine, she assumed it would be anonymous.
Instead, Dr. Rolando Arafiles Jr. fired her after reporting her to the local sheriff — a former patient and admirer of the doctor — for maliciously ruining his reputation.
Police in Kermit, Texas, searched Mitchell’s computer and found the letter, then charged her with “misuse of official information” in her role at Winkler Memorial Hospital, a third-degree felony in Texas under an abuse-of-power statute.
Today, 52 and out of work, Mitchell could face 10 years in prison for doing what she believed was her obligation under the law — to report unsafe medical practices.
Arafiles had, among other things, sutured the rubber tip of a glove to a crushed finger in order to protect it, and performed a skin graft in the Emergency Department which subsequently (and unsurprisingly) failed. In that wasn’t enough, Arafiles was flogging his own herbal remedies, consisting of white grape juice, to his patients on the side while providing treatment.
The second day of the trial proper was yesterday, and was full of interesting information. According to a local account, it turns out the arresting sheriff, who was so full of love and admiration for the good doctor, was selling the herbal supplement on side. And, incredibly, the physician himself thinks diabetes has no impact on wound healing.
It’s an unfortunate confluence of corrupt local politics and hospital complicity — the administration where Arafiles worked was fully aware of his shortcomings and refused to act — in a toxic culture of entitlement, where if things go wrong, and accountability is demanded, you blame the nurse. In the end, you have to wonder who needs to be on trial.