The story of the Texas nurses who were fired and prosecuted for reporting a flaky doctor just keeps getting better. This case was surprising in that it at first seemed to be a clear abuse of power by local officials but on deeper exploration involved a whole army of unorthodox medical thinkers (my prior coverage of the case is here). This case was surprising in that it at first seemed to be a clear abuse of power by local officials but on deeper exploration involved a whole army of unorthodox medical thinkers.
Archive for the 'Texas nurse case' category
What constitutes quackery depends very much on how quackery is defined. If part of that definition is making false or unsubstantiated claims about a medical product you are selling, then Dr. Rolando Arifiles is a quack.
Dr Arafiles and his cronies in the Winkler County government may not realize is that this "internet" thing works both ways. It may increase your ability to sell fake cures, but it also opens you up to being discovered. Of course, increasing your profile by abusing the legal system to quiet critics doesn't help.
The FDA and FTC aren't too happy about the proliferation of fake flu cures coinciding with the H1N1 pandemic. They are so unhappy that they are making a special point of going after people preying on the public:
"Products that are offered for sale with claims to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treat or cure the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus must be carefully evaluated," said Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "Unless these products are proven to be safe and effective for the claims that are made, it is not known whether they will prevent the transmission of the virus or offer effective remedies against infection. Furthermore, they can make matters worse by providing consumers with a false sense of protection."
The Quack Miranda Warning is no protection against this sort of malfeasance.
See the circled bit? The part where Arifiles claims that his colloidal silver gel is FDA approved for swine flu? That's not OK.
I love writing about quackery and other medical shenanigans, but there are some activities and organizations that are so distasteful that I can rarely force myself to write about them. One of these is the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). This is an organization that has supported the lie that abortion leads to breast cancer, has defended child abuse by attempting to "debunk" shaken baby syndrome, or worse, blame it on vaccines, and fought for treating mental health as moral failing rather than a real illness. And that's just a sampling.
Good news out of Texas. Anne Mitchell, the nurse who filed an anonymous complaint about a doctor with the Texas Medical Board, was acquitted of felony charges.
Mitchell brought her concerns about Dr. Rolando Arifiles to her hospital administration, and when she got nowhere, she felt forced to bring her patient safety concerns to the state medical board. The local sheriff, a friend and possibly business partner of Arifiles, used is investigative super-powers to figure out who filed the anonymous complaint, and had her indicted for misusing state information (the medical record numbers of the patients).
The jury took about an hour to acquit Mitchell. Give the damage to her career, hopefully her civil suit against the gangsters who misused their offices to harass her will succeed.
There have been some disturbing rumors circulating about Dr. Rolando Arafiles, the Texas doctor who enlisted a local sheriff to harass and ultimately prosecute local nurses. The nurses filed anonymous complaints with the state medical board about Arafiles' practices, and one of them is now in court facing felony charges for doing her job.
One of the complaints that nurse Anne Mitchell registered was regarding Dr. Arafiles alleged that he was hawking supplements to patients. While this is not necessarily illegal, it is ethically questionable, and if the patients were in the ER and not under his care, that would be a bad thing indeed.
Now, my initial stance on supplements is usually negative, but since further specifics weren't available, I withheld judgment, at least in writing. But now Arafiles' own words show us just how scary this guy is (and to thicken the plot further, court filings allege that the sheriff in this case is actually in the supplement business with Arafiles---a whopping conflict of interest).
Blogger Mike Dunford of The Questionable Authority has done the legwork to uncover some of these disturbing connections. Among some of the most disturbing revelations:
Dr. Arafiles has appeared on infomercials on "God's Learning Channel" about so-called Morgellons syndrome, a form of delusions of parasitosis. Arafiles has aligned himself with Randy Wymore and Marc Neumann, two big boosters of this non-disease:
Arafiles appears from this video to be one of the doctors who tells patients what they want to hear, instead of the truth. But even more cynically, he tells patients they have this non-disease, and then sells them worthless "cures" such as colloidal silver.
There's a prosecution going on in Texas that sounds so corrupt, and could have such a chilling influence on the pursuit of quackery nationwide, that it cannot be ignored. I urge you to read the story in the Times, but here's a brief recap.
In Kermit, a small Texas town, two nurses at local hospital became concerned about the practices of one of the physicians, Dr. Rolando G. Arafiles, Jr. Among the alleged practices were the improper peddling of herbal medicines to hospital patients, and the performance of (sometimes unorthodox) surgical procedures without the appropriate privileges to do so. Anne Mitchell, RN, the nurse against whom charges are still filed, went to the hospital with her concerns and was fired, an act for which state reprimanded the hospital. Given the lack of response from the hospital, she went to the state medical board. When Dr. Arafiles found out that there was a complaint against him, he went to a local sheriff buddy of his, who tracked down the confidential report to the state medical board, and used the information in it to deduce the identity of the filers.
And then he charged them with a crime.
The alleged crime was a trumped up bullshit charge for misuse of state data---which is impossible, since the nurse used the hospital data to refer cases to the state medical board. I'm not a lawyer, but it's hard to see what could possibly be wrong with what Mitchell did.
In fact, the nursing code of ethics specifically requires nurses to advocate for patients, including going to higher authorities when necessary.
There is no "rule" that a code of ethics must square with all laws. In this case the ethical code probably does agree with the law, at least the spirit, and probably the letter.
Reading about the actions of these local officials is like watching Blazing Saddles---it's a small town, with a few people in control of everything, and willing to contort the meaning of the law into any shape they wish. If it weren't for the real people involved, it would almost be funny.