April 4, 2013
Tuesday, April 9th, at 1:30pm is the time when SB 1193 by Senator Campbell, which eliminates confidential complaints, has been set for a public hearing in the Jurisprudence Committee in room 2E.20.
Please contact the following members of the Senate Jurisprudence Committee and encourage them to support SB 1193.
Senate Jurisprudence Members
- Royce West: (512) 463-0123 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jose Rodriguez: (512) 463-0129 email@example.com
- Donna Campbell: (512) 463-0125 firstname.lastname@example.org
- John Carona: (512) 463-0116 email@example.com
- Sylvia Garcia: (512) 463-0106 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kelly Hancock: (512) 463-0109 email@example.com
- Ken Paxton: (512) 463-0108 firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s time to stand up for physicians’ rights and pass legislation that requires the Texas Medical Board (TMB) to guarantee that physicians are given legal due process when they are the subjects of complaints.
SB 1193, authored by Senator Donna Campbell, M.D., and the companion bill, HB 2348, authored by Representative John Zerwas, M.D., promote transparency of the actions of the TMB and establish legal due process for any physician subject to a complaint. It would eliminate confidential complaints and confidential witnesses. The identity of individuals who file confidential complaints and expert witnesses are known to the TMB but remain unknown, or anonymous, to the physicians subject to complaints.
Confidential complaints can be filed by competitors, by hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, a disgruntled employee or an angry ex-spouse. A complaint can be racist and there is no way for a doctor to know that unless he obtains a copy of the complaint. Knowing the source of the complaint enables the physician to better defend himself against false accusations. This is known as legal due process. This would enable a doctor to better defend himself, and enable the TMB to process the complaint quicker.
The Texas Bar Association, the Texas Dental Board and the Texas Ethics Commission do not allow confidential complaints.
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that an accused individual has the right to be informed of the identity of his accuser, what the accusations against him are, as well as to confront witnesses against him and obtain witnesses in his own favor. These are underlying principles in American jurisprudence. The TMB’s actions should not be permitted to violate these principles. Accused criminals, murderers, bank robbers, etc., have the Constitutional right to face their accuser and to know who the witnesses against them are. Shouldn’t physicians be granted the same Constitutional rights?
The lack of transparency in the complaint process has led to abuses by former TMB members. The reputation of the TMB was damaged by the actions of several of its members and staff.
Dr. Roberta Kalafut, TMB President, resigned after it was exposed that confidential complaints had been filed against many of her competitors in the Abilene area. Kalafut admitted, during the October 23, 2007 Interim Hearing by the Texas House Appropriations Subcommittee on Regulatory to investigate the TMB, that her husband who was her medical practice partner had filed a confidential complaint, and it was against a doctor who had been reading MRIs for a competitor of hers.
Dr. Keith Miller, who had been chairman of the TMB disciplinary committee, resigned from the TMB in 2007 after it was disclosed that he was providing expert testimony for plaintiffs’ attorneys against doctors.
After exposing this on my daily radio program and in editorials, Miller filed a defamation suit against me on February 14, 2008. The 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler agreed unanimously with my defense in this case, and ruled unanimously in my favor. The Court held that members of the TMB are public officials, and that the issues in this case involved matters of public concern. Therefore, public officials, like Miller, can be criticized to the full extent allowed by the First Amendment.
On Friday, March 29, 2013 the Texas Supreme Court allowed the appellate decision in my favor to become a legal precedent for all Texans. This decision affirms the important right of free speech to criticize public officials without fear of legal retaliation. This action by the Texas Supreme Court ensures that those who hold powerful government positions can be publicly criticized for their conduct.
By eliminating confidential complaints and confidential expert witnesses, SB 1193 and HB 2348 will increase transparency at the TMB and provide physicians with legal due process.
Our goal is to pass SB 1193 in the Senate first, then move it through the House and send it to the Governor for his signature.
Please forward this correspondence to like-minded physicians and your patients.
Confident of our victory, I remain, as always,
Steven F. Hotze, M.D.
Texans for Patients' and Physicians' Rights
20214 Braidwood, Suite 215
Katy, Texas 77450
281.698.8679 - Stacey Bandfield, Director of Scheduling