Many are anticipating what can be accomplished in Kansas under a pro-life governor in 2011, and I hope restructuring the State Healing Arts Board is on the list.
We’ve endured seven years of pro-abortion Governor Kathleen Sebelius, not only her abortionist-protecting legislative vetoes, but also her appointees on this Board, who allowed decrepit and woman-injuring abortion clinics to stay in business.
Sebelius’ abortion industry aid also extended to retaining the Board’s corrupt executive director, Larry Buening, the spouse of her long-time personal staffer.
Thousands of post-viability abortions were performed in Wichita –almost all of them on non-Kansans– because Buening protected the medical licenses of Kristin Neuhaus, who made the abortion “referrals,” and of LeRoy Carhart, Susan Robinson, Shelly Sella, and the late George Tiller, who performed the abortions.
Sebelius found a cushy SRS attorney job for Buening to keep his state pension, after the legislature threw him out in 2008. [It was not on account of his abortion ties, but because of a backlog of patient deaths and abuse complaints that lawmakers gave the axe to Buening and his top legal counsel, Mark Stafford.]
Buening’s replacement, Jack Confer, had cleaned up Arizona’s medical board mess, but after a rocky 16-month attempt at rehabilitating the Kansas Board, quit in mid-October. The Board is seeking a new director, who must be confirmed by the state Senate.
No such Senate approval is required for the members of the Healing Arts Board, who are appointed to 4-year-terms by the governor from a list prepared by their professional associations. Gov. Mark Parkinson gets his first crack at replacing or reappointing three members this June, and then the next governor (presumably Sam Brownback) will be replacing a few members every year.
BOARD STRUCTURE PROBLEMATIC
The 15-member Kansas state Board of Healing Arts is charged with rooting out incompetency and unprofessional conduct in medical practice. It has three “public” members, who are theoretically sensitive to, and speaking up for, the patient’s viewpoint. The remaining twelve Board members are physicians, osteopaths and chiropractors.
There is an immediate need to replace biased Board members like Myra Christopher, who heads the pro-euthanasia Center for Practical Bioethics and is on the citizen advisory board for Planned Parenthood. But beyond finding ethical Board members, the nature of the Board presents some challenges that cannot easily be overcome.
One roadblock to eradicating dangerous doctors in this state is the lop-sided structure of the Board. Doctors hold the super-majority power over whether any disciplinary actions move forward at all, and, like other professionals, do not relish punishing their “brethren.” Doctors also have personal opinions about the value of patient lawsuits and worry many injuries are wrongly blamed on physician practices.
I believe it would be better for the state Board to use doctors for medical analysis and recommendations, but not to let them have complete control over whether the case has merit, per se. Such a structural change, and giving more power to non-physicians to revoke licenses, will be strongly opposed by the medical professional groups who wield enormous legislative clout.
Another roadblock to good state medical oversight is the caliber and ethics of those who volunteer for Board membership. What inspires physicians to volunteer for the Board position, which has limited prestige, only pays a traveling stipend, and involves much time and effort?
Medical practitioners are, by nature, healers, not arbitrators. Seeing the underbelly of mistreated and neglected patients brings headaches, sadness, and conflicts affecting their professional circle. What would motivate a highly-paid, successful and busy physician to make room for this largely unappreciated role? And why would a retirement-age-physician choose it instead of lucrative medical/pharmaceutical consulting or just pursuing personal interests?
The third impediment to a public-protective Board is the quality of its staff. A poorly-funded legal division ordinarily does not attract the best talent. Even when Board attorneys are given the green light by the Board to press litigation against an incompetent or negligent doctor, they are doing so with limited resources, while facing daunting defense attorneys for the accused physician.
These defense attorneys have the political clout, the funds and the know-how to drag out the proceedings and wear down the Board staff attorneys. Some of the defense attorneys were themselves former Board attorneys who know how to manipulate the system! (This includes the fired attorney Stafford, mentioned above.)
The Healing Arts Board is in sad shape, and needs a major overhaul.