Where Facts And Controversy In The News Come Together In Truth

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

WV Law Allows Doctors To Keep Their Addictions From The Public

Board Of Medicine Keeps Physicians Chemical & Alcohol Impairments Confidential by Jack Swint

“…any information received, maintained or developed by the board relating to the alcohol or chemical dependency impairment of any physician, podiatrist or physician assistant and any voluntary agreement made pursuant to this subsection shall be confidential and not available for public information...” WV Code Chapter 30-3-09(C)(4)

Had he been a pilot, a train engineer, or even a bus driver, chances are random work drug testing would have discovered the chemical addictions of Podiatrist Jeffrey E. Shook before it was too late. Unfortunately for some of his patients, their lives will forever be altered because a WV law and the Board of Medicine permitted him to keep practicing while keeping his chemical dependencies a secret from the general public.

In fact, his Board of Medicine records show a malpractice claim in 2007 while on probationary restrictions. And, 2011 Court records show at least one more malpractice suit pending.

This same confidentiality law doesn’t just keep physicians like Dr. Shook’s addictions from the general public; it also bars civil discovery, court subpoena, or introduction into evidence in any medical professional liability action or other action for damages arising out of the provision of or failure to provide health care services.

Why can these addicted physicians keep their known chemical and or alcohol abuses confidential? Because, WV State Legislatures feel that it’s important to do so in order to encourage voluntary participation in monitored alcohol chemical dependency or major mental illness programs. And because lawmakers agree that major mental illness, alcoholism and chemical dependency are an illness. WV 30-3-9(h)(1)

In order to obtain this confidentiality, the law requires that the physician not have prior pending complaints at the time they enter into thier voluntary approved agreement with the WV Health Program and State Board set forth in WV Code Chapter 30-3-9(B). The agreement and stipulations may include rehab, random drug testing, counseling, fewer work hours and patients, monitoring by another physician and periodic reviews.

And, these agreed upon stipulations and conditions between the state and physician are not to be considered a disciplinary nature or available to the public. (WV Code Chapter 30-3-9(2) Bottom line, in these conditions, WV law will stop you from discovering if your physician -surgeon is impaired by an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

The West Virginia Board Of Medicine (WVBOM)

According to their website, the West Virginia Board of Medicine is the sole authority for the issuance of licenses to practice medicine and surgery, to practice podiatry, and to practice as a physician assistant for a medical doctor (M.D.) in the State of West Virginia, and is the regulatory and disciplinary body for the practice of medicine and surgery and the practice of podiatry and for physician assistants for M.D.'s in this State.

There are thirteen office staff on hand ranging from the director to a receptionist-verification coordinator. Out of fifteen Board Members, fourteen are appointed by the governor. Eight of the members are appointed from among individuals holding the degree of doctor of medicine and two shall hold the degree of doctor of podiatric medicine. One member shall be an individual licensed by the board as a physician assistant.

Each of the 8 doctor- members must be duly licensed to practice his or her profession in this state on the date of appointment and must have been licensed and actively practicing that profession for at least five years immediately preceding the date of appointment. Three lay members shall be appointed to represent health care consumers.

NOTE: A quick search of each Board Members license shows that 4 of the 8 physicians appointed to the Board have medical malpractice settlements on record.

1. Podiatrist Richard Curtis Arnold, who practices in South Charleston WV has had 3 recorded malpractice complaints dating from 1995 to 1996 and settled for a total of $156,000. He has served on the board since 1993 and his latest term came in 2007 from former governor Joe Manchin. (Dr. Arnold and Dr. Shook practiced together in 2010)

2. Dr. M. Khalid Hasan, who practices in Beckley WV, has 1 recorded malpractice settlement in 1979 in the amount of $17,500. He was appointed in 2001 by former governor Bob Wise.

3. Dr. Carlos C. Jimenez, who practices in Glen Dale WV, has 1 recorded malpractice settlement in 2000 in the amount of $160,000.He was appointed in 2007 by former governor Joe Manchin.

4. Dr. Badshaw Wazir, who practices in South Charleston WV, has 1 recorded malpractice settlement in 2001 in the amount of $5,000. He was appointed in 2004 by former governor Bob Wise.

The Case Of Logan Podiatrist Jeffrey E. Shook

We were able to gain access to one chemical addicted doctor’s actual agreement, only because he also practiced in Ohio, which allows public access to these records.

Logan Podiatrist, Jeffrey Edward Shook, (pictured to the left) is one of the doctors that the confidentiality law in WV was used in order to protect his chemical dependency from the public. And, according to his own admissions contained in the Ohio Board of Medicines agreement, (linked below) those addictions were most likely the cause of malpractice claims and other complaints.

Shockingly enough, because Shook’s agreement and terms in WV were kept confidential, the State Medical Board didn’t take any action against him when he violated those terms and conditions after at least one new malpractice claim occurred just 5 months after signing the confidentiality agreement and being placed on probationary restrictions in 2007. That case recently settled in 2011 for $200,000. Also, the Ohio Board never made the connection between the date Shook entered into the 2007 WV agreement and the subsequent malpractice suit 5 months later.

In April 2011, Shook was named as a co-defendant in another lawsuit filed by Stephanie Bego who alleges she went to him in 2009 to remove a pin from her foot left by another surgeon. Shook agreed to the operation but according to Bego’s complaint, he… "Evidently decided not to remove the pin from the plaintiff's foot,"

Doctor Shook’s public information is available on the WVBOM website at the link below. He was licensed in this state back in March 1996 and is valid through June 2013. A work address of 20 Hospital Drive, in Logan WV is also on file. Because of his 2007 confidentiality agreement, the website states that Shook has “no discipline records on record.” But, it does list 4 malpractice claims in which 2 were paid totaling $700,000. Ohio Board Members placed Shook on probationary sanctions on March 6, 2009 because of his West Virginia agreement for his admitted “Hydrocodone” drug addictions in 2006.

According to US District Court filings, civil case 3: 09-1004 (linked below) in Huntington, it appears that Dr. Shook admitted to the WV and OH Board of Medicine that he had a chemical dependency that was mentally and physically impairing his ability as a podiatrist. And he was seeking rehabilitation of that disease beginning in August 2006 when he entered into a short term (10 day) rehab program in Savannah GA that was approved by the WVBOM.

During that time Shook voluntarily gave up his license to practice even though there is no mention of that in his public records. Coincidently, just one month after entering the substance abuse rehab, Shook’s insurance company paid a malpractice claim of half a million dollars for a botched surgery in 2000. One source for this story claims that part of that malpractice settlement included his seeking rehab for his drug addiction.

The Ohio probationary stipulations were to run for a minimum of 3 years and included intense drug counseling, psychiatric treatment, specific and random drug testing, and restriction on traveling outside of Ohio. It was also ordered for an approved physician to monitor Shook’s medical practice, surgeries, patient charts and work hour limitations.

Shook’s restrictions in WV included his refraining from drugs and alcohol, AA and DA meetings at least 4 times a week, unlimited-random drug testing, care by an addiction psychologist, supervision by an approved physician in his office and during surgery, work no more than 30 hours a week, appear before the committee for progress reports.

The entire Ohio-WV Agreements and US District Court case are linked below

Are Doctors Addictions Becoming An Epidemic Across The Country

Research we conducted across the U.S. shows that WV is not the only state that provides confidentiality to its physicians under the law. And, like WV, some physicians who are allowed to practice under the cloak of confidentiality are still endangering innocent and completely unknowing patients.

Why is that? Because doctors, unlike airline pilots, truck drivers, some big-city firefighters, and other professionals whose performance impacts public safety in the United States, are not required by law or regulation to be randomly screened for drug use. As a result, you have zero guarantees that the surgeon fixing your ACL, or administering your medication, or even the dentist performing your root canal isn't quietly hooked on something that could inhibit or completely annihilate his or her ability to treat you safely and effectively.

"The American public has accepted the idea that a physician works in the patient's best interest. And most physicians do," says Lucian Leape, M.D., a professor of public health policy at Harvard's school of public health and a leading advocate for patient safety. "But in the past 20 years, there's more and more evidence that we have some definite problems."

There's so much evidence that Dr. Leape now believes it's time to flip the current arrangement on its head to move from a system in which patients must blindly trust that the people treating them are drug and alcohol free to a system in which health care workers are required to prove, through random and periodic drug testing, that they're drug- and alcohol-free.

"I'm very much in favor of random testing," Dr. Leape says. "We have a responsibility to identify problem doctors and bring them into treatment." And to protect patients in the process.

Drug Testing For Doctors?

No one looks forward to the prospect of peeing into a plastic container to prove he or she is fit to do a job. Yet all clinical members of the anesthesia department at Massachusetts General Hospital, (one of the countries oldest and most prestigious medical facilities) are required to do exactly that. If their tests come back clean, the residents are free to keep on practicing. If not, a second sample is sent to another certified lab for confirmation. If the second sample is positive, the doctor is steered into treatment for drug use.

This program, along with a similar one that's in effect at the Cleveland Clinic, began in 2004 after a rash of publicity emerged about high addiction rates among anesthesiologists. (A 2005 survey by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation found that 80 percent of anesthesiology residency programs had problems with drug-impaired residents.)

"Some view it as an invasion of privacy. But others feel we have the safety of the public in our hands, just like bus drivers and pilots do," says Michael Fitzsimons, M.D., the Massachusetts General anesthesiologist who is the driving force behind the testing program. "And because of that, we not only have to be drug-free, but also have to prove we're drug-free."

Even the courts have generally ruled in favor of drug screening for people who hold jobs that may pose a threat to public safety, and the public seems to have accepted the idea of giving up some rights in exchange for greater safety and security. The notion of workplace drug screening as a way to protect the public, first gained momentum in the 1980s; it was a Reagan-era response to the rise of casual drug use. President Ronald Reagan himself signed an executive order in 1986 mandating drug screening of all federal employees.

In Closing…

The government and the public seem to have little problem telling a blue-collar subway engineer to offer up his urine, but we've been far more hesitant to put the same demands on a Harvard-trained oncologist or a Johns Hopkins cardiologist. "There's a long history of professionalism when it comes to medicine," says Harvard's Dr. Leape, "and the public has generally accepted the idea that physicians are self-regulating."

Laws are generally created and enforced for the good and safety of the general public. WV Code 30-3-09 is designed to provide confidentiality to physicians who admit that they have a drug and or alcohol addiction that is effectively impairing their ability to work. And in most cases, these doctors are allowed to continue working while seeking help for the effects of this disease.

Doesn’t the public have a right to know if the WV Board of Medicine has knowledge of any doctor’s drug or alcohol addictions, especially if they are allowed to continue treating patients during this probationary time period?

In the case of Jeffrey Shook, records show that 1 month after he notified the board of his drug addiction in 2006, (and subsequent 10 day stint in a GA rehab) his insurance company paid $500,000 to a former patient for malpractice.

Then, after only 5 months from entering into his 2007 agreement with the WVBOM, a new malpractice complaint was filed against him. It recently settled for $200,000. One is still pending....

Doctors are not driving trucks, delivering the mail or any other blue collar job. They are caring for and performing surgery on human beings. Having the life of another in your hands is almost sacred. There should be no tolerance to a doctor’s impairment due to drugs or alcohol whether it is classified a disease or not!

Bottom line, many non-physicians around the world also suffer from these same type addictions or “diseases.” They are no longer able or allowed to perform the job they once had. Nor did they take an oath to treat and protect life to the best of their ability and judgment.

Nor did they swear to “maintain this sacred trust, holding myself far aloof from wrong, from corrupting, from the tempting of others to vice.”

End Of Story….

Jack Swint-Publisher
WV News 2011
(304) 982-7024
E-Mail: WestVirginiaNews@gmail.com
Twitter: @WVNewsOnline


Hippocratic Oath

Dr. Jeffrey Shook’s Ohio And WV Agreement

WV Code-Chapter 30-3-9

US District Court Document From Case 3:09-CV-01004 Maynard vs Shook

WVBOM Public Discipline Reports From 1990 To Present

WVBOM License Search

Doctor Seth Stinehour Health And Safety News Articles

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