Texas nurse on trial for reporting physician
Nurses around the country are rallying around Anne Mitchell, the Texas nurse currently standing trial for “misuse of official information,” a third-degree felony. If convicted, Ms. Mitchell could face a $10,000 fine and up to ten years in prison.
Mitchell and a Winkler County Memorial Hospital co-worker, Vickilyn Galle, reported six cases of concern concerning Dr. Rolando G. Arafiles Jr. to the Texas Medical Board. Ms. Mitchell says she had a professional duty to report practices that could cause patient harm; Winkler County Memorial adminstrator Stan Wiley says that Dr. Arafiles had been reprimanded on several occasions for improper prescribing and performing surgery. The prosecution maintains that Ms. Mitchell used confidential information to harm Dr. Arafiles’ reputation. (Charges against Ms. Galle were dropped on Feb. 1.)
The American Nurses Association, the Texas Medical Board and the Texas Nurses Assocation have all been vocal in their support of Ms. Mitchell. Susy Sportsman, president of the Texas Nurses Association, wrote, “This trial is monumental for nursing and certainly worthy of scrutiny…Its outcome could curtain a nurse’s willingness to report patient safety concerns even though a nurse’s duty to report is clearly identified in the Code of Ethics for Nurses and the Texas Nursing Practice Act…If that happens, it is ultimately the patient who is put in harm’s way.”
The Texas Nurses Association established a legal defense fund in July 2009 as a concrete show to support for the Winkler RNs. An initial disbursement of $20,000, to defray the nurses’ legal expenses, was made in November. If you’d like to help, click on Contribute to the TNA Legal Defense Fund.
Jennifer is a professional freelance writer with over eight years experience as a hospital nurse. She has clinical experience in adult health, including med-surg, geriatrics and transplant; she also has a particular interest in women’s health and cancer care. Jennifer has written a variety of health and parenting articles for national publications.
By Jennifer Fink, RN, BSN