Whistle Blowing Nurse Mitchell Found Innocent
The trial of whistle blowing nurse, Anne Mitchell, began Monday. She was on trial for “misuse of official information,” a third-degree felony in Texas. The trial ended yesterday.
It only took the west Texas jury an hour of deliberation to acquit Mitchell who had been charged with the third-degree felony after alerting the state medical board that a doctor at her hospital was practicing unsafe medicine.
If Mitchell had been found guilty, the conviction could have carried a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
After going through the chain of command at Winkler County Memorial Hospital, Mrs Mitchell and Vickilyn Galle wrote a letter to the Texas Medical Board mentioning six cases “of concern” that were identified by file numbers but not by patient names, as well as their concern of Dr. Rolando Arafiles misusing his professional influence to sell patients an herbal supplement.
The complaint was made anomalously. The whistle blower protection laws should have protected the women, but Dr. Arafiles used his local friend Winkler County Sheriff Robert L. Roberts to uncover their names. On July 15, 2009, the nurses were charged by the county attorney's office with "misuse of official information."
Charges against Vickilyn Galle were dismissed at the prosecutor’s discretion last week.
Nurses and doctors are encouraged to report unethical and dubious behavior about doctors to their state medical boards in an effort to keep patients safe. Key to this function is protection from retaliation for the reporting person (whistle blower). This verdict strengthens that protection.
There remains the Civil suit filed by the nurses.
West Texas Nurse on Trial for Reporting Doctor