In a Kafka-esque scenario in El Paso, Texas, a nurse found herself the target of criminal charges after escalating complaints of unsafe conditions at the hospital she worked at. The nurse, Anne Mitchell worked as a compliance officer at the hospital in West Texas, where she was charged with observing and obeying all health guidelines and regulations.
When her complaints to the staff and supervisors at her hospital regarding unsafe surgical and prescription procedures went unheeded, Mitchell wrote a letter to the Texas Board of Medicine, including patient information that she had sent over without their consent, but scrubbed of all possible identifying information.
In particular, Mitchell singled out Dr. Arafiles for his treatment of patients. Mitchell claims Dr. Arafiles would perform unsafe surgeries on patients, as well as recommends an herbal supplement as part of their recovery procedures- a supplement that Arafiles happened to sell himself. Following internal complaints, Mitchell and another nurse were fired from their positions at the hospital
Notified of the complaints to the Board of Health and pending an investigation, Arafiles called on a personal friend of his- Winkler County Sherif Robert L. Roberts to investigate the nurses who had filed the charge, subpoenaing their work computers. Following the investigation, Roberts pursued the two nurses, resulting in the criminal prosecution of the two nurses for “misuse of Government information”. The charges were suggested by County Attorney, Scott Tidwell, who is another personal friend of Arafiles.
During the trial, which could have put Mitchell away for up to ten years, the Texas Board Of Medicine wrote in to categorically deny that Mitchell had broken the law, and to state that the Board is not subject to the patient information laws, in direct opposition to the assertion that Mitchell acted outside of the law.
After deliberating for less than an hour, Mitchell was found not guilty on the charges. If Mitchell were to have been found guilty, this case would have set a horrific precedent for whistleblower laws in the country, which would only weaken the standing of these employees who bravely step up to perceived wrong doings.
Mitchell is now pursuing an action against the hospital, Dr. Arafiles and others in connection with her wrongful termination and following retaliation.
We applaud Ms. Mitchell for standing up for patient safety, and to put her own career on the line for the safety and well being of others.