The Texas Medical Board goes after abortion providers, but Stanislaw Burzynski practices untouched for decades

Regular readers know my frustration with the Texas Medical Board. Why is it, I’ve often wondered, that Stanislaw Burzynski can keep peddling his unproven cancer treatment with seeming impunity for nearly four decades, with every attempt of the TMB over the last four decades seemingly being utterly ineffective? It’s not as though Burzynski is alone. There are many other doctors who should, in the opinion of many, have their licenses revoked but keep practicing in Texas. Even when there’s a doctor who is clearly an immediate threat to patients, it’s hard to get the TMB to do anything. Ditto some obvious quacks, the elimination of whom takes a painfully long time and national attention?

Well, after all these years complaining about the TMB and its ineffectiveness, I’ve found a violation that the TMB acts on urgently and enthusiastically, and with great vigor. Yes, there is one offense that will bring the wrath of the TMB on you, if you’re a physician in Texas, in a relatively short period of time, certainly much shorter than for any of the physicians I mentioned above. I’m referring to doctors in Texas who run afoul of Texas law regarding abortions. A good example of this popped up yesterday in the form of a press release delivered to my e-mail from one of the services I subscribe to:

Texas Medical Board Press Release

February 14, 2014

Media contact: Jarrett Schneider, 512-305-7018
Customer service: 512-305-7030 or 800-248-4062

TMB suspends Houston physician

On February 13, 2014, a disciplinary panel of the Texas Medical Board temporarily suspended, without notice, the Texas medical license of Houston physician Theodore M. Herring, Jr., M.D., after determining his continuation in the practice of medicine poses a continuing threat to public welfare. The suspension was effective immediately.

The Board found between November 6, 2013 and February 7, 2014, Dr. Herring unlawfully performed 268 abortion procedures without holding active admitting privileges at a hospital that provides obstetrical or gynecological health care services located no further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced in violation of Texas Health and Safety Code 171.0031(a)(1).

On December 11, 2013, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) conducted an unannounced inspection of a facility at which Dr. Herring admitted he was the Medical Director and the sole provider of abortion procedures. Dr. Herring also admitted that he did not have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility.

On January 27, 2014, DSHS received and reviewed a Plan of Correction (POC) submitted by Dr. Herring to address the deficiencies cited by DSHS at the December 11, 2013 inspection, including, among other violations, the performance or induction of abortions without active admitting privileges at a local hospital. Dr. Herring’s POC indicated he was “obtaining active admitting privileges” and held an “admitting arrangement with two other physicians.” A “Complete Date” of August 31, 2014 was noted.

On February 3, 2014, DSHS sent Dr. Herring a letter indicating that the POC he submitted was insufficient to address the violations found during the December 11, 2013 inspection.
On February 7, 2014, a second unannounced inspection of the facility was conducted by DSHS to follow-up on the findings of the December 11, 2013 inspection.
The findings of the February 7, 2014 inspection include the following:

a. Between November 6, 2013 and February 7, 2014, Dr. Herring performed 268 procedures, according to the Induced Abortion Report he submitted to the DSHS Bureau of Statistics.

b. On January 15, 2014, Dr. Herring submitted an application for admitting privileges at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital.

c. On February 7, 2014, Dr. Herring provided a letter to DSHS stating that as of February 7, 2014 he would not perform any abortion procedures until he held active admitting privileges at a local hospital.

d. Dr. Herring represented that he would present in person at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital on February 10, 2014 to request temporary admitting privileges in the pendency of his application for admitting privileges.

On February 11, 2014, DSHS filed a complaint with the Board alleging that Dr. Herring had violated Texas Health and Safety Code 171.0031(a)(1). The complaint indicates that DSHS found the POC Dr. Herring submitted insufficient to demonstrate compliance with the law.

As of February 13, 2014, Dr. Herring had not completed an application for admitting privileges at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital or any other hospital within 30 miles of the facility.

As of February 13, 2014, the earliest date on which Respondent’s application for admitting privileges at Houston Willowbrook Hospital could be considered is March 18, 2014.

A temporary suspension hearing with notice will be held as soon as practicable with 10 days’ notice to Dr. Herring, unless the hearing is specifically waived by Dr. Herring.

The temporary suspension remains in place until the Board takes further action.

# # #

To view disciplinary orders, visit the TMB website, click on “Look Up A License,” accept the usage terms, then type in a doctor’s name. Click on the name shown in the search results to view the doctor’s full profile. Within that profile is a button that says “View Orders.”

All releases and bulletins are also available on the TMB website under the “Newsroom” heading.

As this news report describes:

Opponents of the law said that given the vast size of Texas, the admitting privileges requirement places an unjust burden on clinics and punishes people in rural parts of the state where medical care can be scarce.

Those who back the law said the requirement is necessary to protect the health of women in case there is a complication with an abortion.

The law also requires abortion clinics to meet heightened building standards, bans abortion after 20 weeks and requires strict adherence to federal guidelines in prescribing abortion pills.

Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, called on the board to suspend more physicians.

“Dr. Herring is not the only abortionist practicing illegally in Texas,” it said.

Heather Busby, a spokeswoman with NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said the admitting privileges requirement is “medically unnecessary and does nothing to improve what is one of the safest outpatient procedures.”

Its “true purpose is to force abortion providers out of business and has already lead to the closure of nearly one-third of Texas’ safe, legal abortion clinics,” she said in an email.

Additional details can be found here and here. In particular, it is noted that most hospitals would be reluctant to grant admitting privileges to abortion doctors because they rarely need to admit patients to the hospital.

The law was passed last year and only went into effect on November 1, 2013. Within less than four months, the TMB is cracking down, making its first example. The state of Texas claims that it is protecting the health of women, but that’s clearly nonsense. One wishes that the state of Texas and the TMB had nearly as much concern for the health of cancer patients as it oh-so-piously claims to have for the health of women, but they don’t. Clearly, physicians providing abortion services in Texas have far more to fear from the TMB than Stanislaw Burzynski has ever had. Priorities are priorities, after all, and state of Texas clearly has its priorities. Top among such priorities when it comes to health, besides, of course, preventing its citizens from benefiting from Obamacare, is to deny its women access to reproductive health services. Compared such priorities, what are a bunch of cancer patients being made promises that can’t be kept at the expense of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars?