Coalition for Physician's Rights
Thank you for taking the time to explore my funding request seeking help with legal-related expenses for what we hope will be a precedent-setting case.
In brief, the issue is this: in the context of my whistleblowing, an administrative licensing agency, the NC Medical Board, acted in conjunction with a private state-contracted psychiatrist to knowingly conduct a bogus investigation into newly raised anonymously submitted concerns about my mental health which ultimately led both to depriving me of my medical license and denying me my right to due process. Over the past seven years, through my and numerous physician colleagues’ efforts, multiple investigations into agency malfeasance are underway. And now, after a prolonged legal ordeal, my case is being considered by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. My legal-related expenses have exhausted all of my resources.
Here’s the concise background to my case and funding appeal:
In 2009, working as a civilian psychiatrist at the Deployment Health Center of a large active-duty military base, I raised issues pertaining to critical deficiencies in the mental health care program providing services to service-members returning from combat. I filed a detailed emergency Inspector General complaint and was promptly terminated for this. US Congressman Walter Jones who clearly felt my concerns had merit strongly advocated for comprehensive investigation. (See http://www.salon.com/topic/camp_lejeune/)
After my firing and in preparation for litigation for wrongful termination under the Whistleblower Protection Act, multiple highly unusual events occurred including multi-person surveillance. On one occasion, a three person surveillance team was actually observed by a visiting veteran FBI agent intimately familiar with surveillance methodology and who was a member of my legal team. Having blown the whistle on forensic fraud at the FBI, he was also well familiar with whistleblower retaliation tactics. (See http://www.whistleblowersblog.org/2012/04/articles/forensic-justice/dr-frederic-whitehurst-and-the-failed-fbi-crime-lab/)
On the advice of colleagues, and as I feared for my safety, I confidentially reported these concerns to the local police department. Soon thereafter, I was contacted by the NC Medical Board informing me that they had received an “anonymous concern” about my mental health. Prior to this, I had enjoyed an excellent clinical reputation with no malpractice suits, no complaints to the medical board and certainly no concerns about my mental health or the quality of my patient care.
At the medical board’s direction, I willingly complied with obtaining an independent psychological evaluation which fully documented the absence of any mental illness. However, the NC Medical Board refused to accept this report and ordered me to undergo an evaluation by a psychiatrist at their affiliate agency, the North Carolina Physicians Health Program (NCPHP). For no reason, NCPHP disregarded the independent psychologist’s report and conducted what was clearly a sham evaluation. They refused to provide me a copy of their evaluation report or even their “diagnostic findings.” They actively denied me all access to a supposedly operational “grievance” process. To this day, they have refused a grievance hearing and won’t even provide me or my colleagues a copy of their grievance protocol. On the basis of this fraudulent evaluation, the NC Medical Board ordered me to report out-of-state to one of their “preferred” programs which would conduct (at a cost of $5,000 cash) a supposedly independent multi-day evaluation.
I declined, citing my reasons for doing so, and we filed an injunction against the NC Medical Board. It’s important to understand that at this time, national media had taken notice of the issues that I had raised regarding the inadequate system of post-combat service members’ mental health care, and US Congressman Walter Jones was demanding an investigation into the circumstances surrounding my termination.
As a result of my stance, the Board undertook multiple procedurally illegal steps to compel me to “voluntarily inactivate” my license under threat that, if I didn’t immediately comply, they would publicly declare me mentally ill and dangerous to patient care. Having unsuccessfully objected on multiple procedural grounds prior to this, I recognized that if I were to have any hope of resuming practice, I was compelled to comply with this extortion and seek justice subsequently.
Three months later, as a direct result of this unwarranted interruption of care, a patient of mine committed suicide. Compounded with the abuses of this medical board and its wrongful coercion to “voluntarily inactivate” my license, I suspect I was as traumatized and grief-stricken by my patient’s suicide as was his spouse and family. My case is as much about protecting patients against unwarranted government interruption of care as it is about abuse of governmental power.
After much research and effort in seeking legal representation, I filed suit in federal court against the NC Medical Board, NCPHP and the NC Medical Society (for its NC Auditor-documented failure of requisite oversight of NCPHP’s operations). To our great dismay, that suit was dismissed on multiple technical grounds (e.g. exhausted statute of limitations, alleged sovereign immunity of a state medical board et al.) having nothing to do with the substance of the case. With great reservation but also firm resolve, I decided to proceed with appeal. My case is currently in consideration at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Fighting this over a course of seven years and being deprived of practicing my profession which I trained long and hard for, I have depleted all available financial resources and I am reaching out publicly to ask for support as I undertake what I hope will be the successful close of a psychologically and financially exhausting legal challenge against two powerful state agencies which control medical professional licensing. These two agencies have actively denied due process and operated with utterly no governmental oversight. I maintain that these two agencies wrongfully derailed my career (at that in the context of doing what I felt was my professional duty in calling attention to a grossly deficient system of care of service members returning from combat) and severely jeopardized patient care resulting in at least one entirely avoidable catastrophic outcome. In the course of this protracted ordeal, I have discovered that these same two state agencies’ due process-deprived practices have similarly harmed other physicians’ careers and also caused unwarranted interruption of patient care with catastrophic consequences.
MD Sues North Carolina Medical Board, Physicians Health Program
One-Man Fight: MD Takes On State Medical Board, PHP
Physician Health Programs Under Fire - British Medical Journal
In response to the urgent alarms expressed by multiple senior colleagues, North Carolina Auditor Beth Wood conducted a comprehensive Performance Audit of the North Carolina Physicians Health Program (NCPHP). Her 2014 report [link] confirmed both that there was pervasive abuse of due process and worse, that there was complete failure of oversight by all three of its mandated overseers – the NC Medical Board, the North Carolina Medical Society and NCPHP’s own Board of Directors. (See NCPHP Performance Audit
While I have reoriented my professional life toward career coaching especially for physicians grappling with burnout and career transition, my “David and Goliath” legal effort has taken seven years and has consumed virtually all of my attention and financial resources.
The inordinate amount of time required for legal research, case preparation and submission of briefs and responses has forced me to divert needed attention away from my what should be my primary focus – building my coaching and consulting business.
I have now brought my case before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals [case # 16-2075]. As I make this final legal push, I urgently need your help with the considerable legal-related expenses.
Independent of the outcome of my case, I intend to remain active in pursuing justice for physicians and for all other healthcare professionals unfairly deprived of due process by their professional licensing agencies. These administrative agencies have gone way beyond what state legislatures envisioned and certainly beyond what the US Constitution and federal laws allow. However, they operate with utterly no governmental oversight or accountability and do so behind the shield of seemingly impenetrable state immunity. This is both wrong and dangerous. My case before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals confronts this abuse directly and challenges that long assumed immunity.
Why Am I Doing This?
Very few people encounter the misfortune of being thrust into such a Kafkaesque nightmare. It’s understandable therefore why it might be difficult for most to even conceive of such an abuse of authority. However, once you’re in it, you have no choice but to fight it for your professional survival. Very few physicians get this far in their litigation against these legally well-protected state agencies, largely because the authority of medical boards and their affiliated PHPs has gone unchallenged.
It’s also important that you know that I’m no longer doing this for my own restoration of professional license nor even with any realistic expectation of financial reparation, even though I and many colleagues believe that both license restoration and compensation are fully in order. Rather, I am doing this because I feel it is my individual ethical responsibility to challenge to the fullest this wrongful abuse of authority and interruption of patient care. While this has been psychologically arduous and financially bankrupting, I cannot and will not allow these agencies’ unchecked abusive practices to continue while witnessing other physicians getting ensnared in a similar Kafkaesque nightmare and having their careers derailed, their personal lives upended and their patients’ lives endangered by thoroughly wrongful interruption of care.
By this suit, I intend to hold these agencies publicly accountable both in my case and moving forward and I invite you to follow this case. Multiple well-regarded medical publications such as Medscape and The British Medical Journal (see links above) are actively monitoring it. And independent of the outcome of this litigation, I will continue to work toward building a coalition of physicians to demand due process, procedural transparency and oversight of these agencies.
Please support me in this effort.
If it is within your capability, please also consider making a regular donation over the next several months as part of your charitable giving practice by which time I am hoping my immediate financial goal will be reached.
In the event that you are interested in being kept apprised of the progress in my litigation and my efforts to help other physicians in similar Board and PHP struggles, please click here [link] to join my mailing list and I will ensure that you get updates as they are available.
Heartfelt thanks again for considering my request. Please know that your contribution is deeply appreciated.
With kindest regards,
p.s. If you know of others who may wish to contribute to this effort, I would greatly appreciate it if you would pass along the link to this fundraising appeal.