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Day 2 Texas Nurse Whitleblower Trial

Posted by Alvin Wolff | Feb 09, 2010 | 0 Comments

Major figures at the center of the trial of former Winkler County Nurse Anne Mitchell spoke on the stand today about the case.

During a nearly two hour cross examination, the defense tried to establish that reporting a doctor for substandard care is not illegal and not harassment.

The prosecution questioned a total of four witnesses. The Winkler County IT staff person, Doctor Rolando Arafiles, a Winkler Co. Memorial Hospital ER nurse and Winkler Co. Sheriff Robert Roberts made up that group. County Attorney, Scott Tidwell, attempted to prove that Doctor Arafiles was harassed by Anne Mitchell's complaint to the TMB and that she misused official information in the process.

The defense mentioned again, as they have for months now, that a nurses' sworn duty is to report substandard care to the state and that the reports are protected under patient privacy confidentiality acts.

During cross-examination, Dr. Arafiles struggled to define "standard of care".

Doctor Rolando Arafiles said he supports the reporting process, but not in this case, because he felt Anne Mitchell was harassing him when she sent an anonymous complaint to the Texas Medical Board.

The defense grilled the doctor about medical mistakes he made including one where he injected a needle into the bone of a patient and another where he sent a child with appendicitis home without treatment.

The prosecution and defense agreed to nickname the instances on record in which Dr. Arafiles made medical mistakes. Those cases are being called, "Turkey Toe", "Appendix Boy", "Rubber Finger Tip", and "Skin Graft".

"Rubber Finger Tip" references the instance when Dr. Arafiles sewed a part of a suturing kit onto a patient. It was a part of the kit not meant to be used on patients. During testimony, Dr. Arafiles said he meant to use it as a brace and accidentally sewed it to the patient.

We caught up with the doctor once he left the witness stand but he declined to comment on the case.

Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts' testimony began today. He revealed a friendship with Doctor Arafiles and admitted the Dr. saved his life. The Sheriff also talked about when he and Dr. Arafiles played golf together.

Sheriff Roberts conducted the investigation into the Dr.'s harassment complaint that eventually played into the nurses' firing from the hospital.

During his cross-examination, Dr. Arafiles discussed the nutritional supplement called "Zrii" that he recommended to patients. The doctor admitted that Sheriff Roberts sold Zrii and even held meetings at the local Pizza Hut to recruit others to sell the product. According to the defense, the main ingredient in Zrii is white grape juice and it sells for around $40 a bottle.

Nurse Anne Mitchell mentioned the sale of non-approved/sanctioned supplements in her original complaint to the TMB.

Representatives from the Texas Nurses Association were present at the trial to show support for Anne Mitchell.

At one point Dr. Arafiles was asked whether diabetic patients might have a tendency to heal worse than patients without diabetes. To the dismay of the audience, he said no, that there is no difference.

The audience gasped, after which point Hon. Judge James Rex told the audience to keep quiet or else risk being thrown out of the courtroom.

During cross-examination of Dr. Arafiles, defense attorney, John Cook IV, had the Dr. read an excerpt from a recent New York Times article on the case. In the article the Dr. claims that he has been "brutalized". Cook asked Dr. Arafiles if he has been more brutalized than the patients he has left injured, to which he responded, "yes".

The cross examination of Sheriff Roberts continues first thing tomorrow morning in the courtroom.

About the Author

Alvin Wolff

Alvin has been in practice for nearly 40 years. During that time, he has handled over 7000 cases and claims and has tried over 100 cases to a jury verdict. Alvin handles all sorts of injury claims, from car crashes, medical malpractice, slip & trip & falls, to dog bites, incorrect prescri...

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