KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Texas Whistle-Blowing Nurse Is Acquitted

The New York Times: "A West Texas jury took but an hour Thursday to acquit a nurse who had been charged with a felony after alerting the state medical board that a doctor at her hospital was practicing unsafe medicine. The uncommon prosecution had ignited deep concern among health care workers and advocates for whistle-blowers about a potential chilling effect on the reporting of malpractice. ... The prosecution said [Anne] Mitchell, 52, who had been a nurse at Winkler County Memorial Hospital for 25 years, had used her position to obtain and disseminate confidential information - patient file numbers - in her letter to the medical board with the intent of harming Dr. Rolando G. Arafiles Jr." (Sack, 2/11).

ABC News reports: "The verdict could have had a profound effect on whistle-blowers in Texas and nationwide. Mitchell had assumed the letter she wrote ... was anonymous. Instead, [Arafiles] fired her after reporting her to the local sheriff -- a former patient and admirer of the doctor -- for maliciously ruining his reputation. ... The case was so contentious that it set friends against one another in this oil and cow town [Kermit, Tex.] of 5,200 near the New Mexico border, and had to be moved miles. ... Local residents worry about losing doctors and nurses. There are only a dozen nurses and three doctors in all of Winkler County" (Donaldson James, Osunami and Murray, 2/11). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.