February 11, 2010
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On Acquittal of Texas Nurse in Trial for Reporting Doctor to Medical Board
Anne Mitchell, who was a nurse at Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit, Texas, was acquitted Thursday after standing trial on a felony charge of “misuse of official information.” That charge and her dismissal from the hospital nursing staff followed her anonymous report to the state medical board of allegations of bad practice by a physician.
WASHINGTON— The American Federation of Teachers stands with nurses and other healthcare professionals across the nation in support of Anne Mitchell. The jurors in this case got it, while the prosecutor who pursued this charge did not.
It is outrageous that any nurse anywhere could face the loss of livelihood and even personal freedom for doing what nurses must do every day: stand up for the safety and well-being of patients. The nurses and healthcare workers represented by the AFT throughout the nation understand that their profession requires nothing less.
When Anne Mitchell reported allegations of bad practice by a physician at the hospital where she served as an administrative nurse, she was simply doing what the ethics and standards of her profession demand. For her to be charged with a crime for making an anonymous complaint to the Texas Medical Board, which licenses and disciplines doctors, was literally a travesty of justice.
The executive director of that medical board has warned correctly that the misguided charge in this case will have a chilling effect on the reporting of bad medical practices or misconduct by physicians throughout Texas. That creates greater risk for patients—the very people Anne Mitchell was trying to protect.
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The AFT represents more than 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.