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Friday, May 23, 2008

Human Guinea Pigs, Sham Peer Review, and the Governor

This particular story was the climax of a nearly five year ordeal for a nurse anasthesist that found him the target of a sham peer review that dwindled his savings and nearly cost him his license.

The Texas agency in charge of disciplining doctors has launched its own investigation into the drug testing allegations uncovered by Local 2 Investigates at Cuero Community Hospital.

Former staff members at the publicly funded hospital near Victoria say patients were used as "human guinea pigs" without the patients' knowledge, with a drug that was never approved for trials or use on humans.

The Texas Medical Board was made aware of the allegations nearly two years ago, but the agency's enforcement director said the case had been closed since patient names were not included in the complaint.

What you can't tell from this story is that the main source for it is a nurse anesthetist that worked alongside Dr. Dugi at Cuero Community Hospital. You won't find the name of this nurse anesthetist anywhere in this particularly referenced story, and he is only mentioned in passing in the series of stories that the news station, KPRC in Houston, did on this investigation. (for now I will also not reveal his name but that's only dramatic effect because his name along with his entire story will be revealed in part two of this series) That's too bad because the investigation that KPRC uncovered was only the beginning of his long ordeal.

Dr. Dugi, the doctor referenced, worked at Cuero Community Hospital in Cuero, Texas a town of a few thousand. He lead what eventually amounted to a pseudo mafioso group of doctors that became the de facto rogue and corrupt administration. The actual administration was weak and powerless to stop Dr. Dugi from controlling the hospital. Cuero is a town of mostly Hispanics, poor, and many illegals. As such, Dr. Dugi turned many of his elderly patients into guinea pigs for testing a drug that he wanted to bring onto the market. Rather than going through a formal FDA process, Dr. Dugi thought it would be easier to simply test the drug on real patients at his own hospital.

This nurse anaesthetist discovered what was happening and reported it to the administration. As a result of his whistle blowing, he was retaliated against and ultimately wound up facing an even more corrupt Texas Board of Nursing. He had to battle for over four years against what amounted to nothing more than trumped up charges and eventually even had his license revoked by the state for a year. The whole process has left him nearly broke and has totally shattered any semblance of a medical career.

Not only is none of this mentioned in the piece, but most of the same players that corrupted the TNB continue to lead it to this day. The nurse anaesthetist took his pleas all the way to the governor's office of Rick Perry. His pleas were met with a letter that told him that they would have the Texas Nursing Board look into it. Let's make sure everyone understands this. It was the very same Texas Nursing Board that he wanted to have investigated. Thus, the governor's office wanted the corrupt nursing board to investigate itself. That speaks for itself.

Furthermore, while this nurse anesthetist was being systematically targeted the TNB was showing shocking leniency for real bad apples. For instance, this particular case linked regards Mark Crawford. Crawford was himself a nurse anesthetist at Cuero Hospital through a bulk of 2003. In 2007, he was caught practicing with a falsified medical malpractice license. Four years earlier, while at Cuero, he was caught falsifying bills and doctoring prescriptions to feed a drug habit. The TNB let Crawford off with a warning and a fine.

So, why wasn't the whole story told? That I don't know, however I do know the investigative reporter, Stephen Dean, was told the whole story and chose only to focus on the corruption at Cuero Community Hospital for his own investigation.

It's too bad because had he focused on the entire story, he would have discovered a corrupted TNB that targets certain nurses on sham charges while protecting other nurses. He would have found a link between the corrupt Texas Nursing Board and the equally corrupt Texas Medical Board. Furthermore, he would have found a governor's office that looked the other way and did nothing while all of this corruption went on.

As such, I guess that leaves it to me to tell the entire story. That of course is part two of this series.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The plot thickens. This is a very interesting story.