After reading about these 6 examples of whistleblowing in nursing and healthcare, you’ll lose any doubt you might have about the courage of the whistleblowers and the consequences they are exposed for their actions.
It goes without saying that whistleblowing is a hard choice to make, regardless of the field. You don’t need to look further than Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden to realize that the potential risks for whistleblowers are immense. After the recent presidential pardon granted by President Obama, Manning will be released in May 2017, after serving 7 years in a military prison under very harsh conditions. Manning spent the first 11 months of her prison term in solitary confinement and was regularly mistreated by the military, being denied even the necessary medical care. Edward Snowden, another famous whistleblower who blew the lid off the United States program of global surveillance and the existence of PRISM, is currently living in Russia, in an undisclosed location. With espionage charges against him, it is doubtful that he will ever set foot on American soil again or see his family and friends. There are plenty of other cases as well, including these 10 Famous Corporate Whistleblowers in Publicly-Traded Companies.
When it comes to whistleblowing in nursing and healthcare, the consequences might not be as severe, but they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Regardless of the nature of a crime they are reporting, be it a Medicare fraud or unsafe practices, the consequences will affect whistleblowers’ lives dramatically. There are plenty of cases where whistleblowers were forced to seek court protection from their employers. Some have experienced harassment at work, others lost their job entirely and all had to go through an arduous legal process of proving that they were right to blow a whistle in the first place. The fact that most of them were aware of these consequences and still went through with it only serves to prove that we must protect and reassure these people so that future whistleblowers aren’t discouraged from coming forward with their information.
Fortunately, there are great resources on the Internet that can prepare potential whistleblowers for the blowback, as well as inform them of the proper steps they need to take in order to successfully report any unlawful behavior. Now, let’s see which examples of whistleblowing in nursing and healthcare are on our list.
6. Winkler County nurse whistleblower case
This came to prominence mainly because of the retaliation against the two nurses, Anne Mitchell and Vicki Galle, who anonymously reported Dr. Rolando Arafiles for using herbal remedies and other alternative methods in treating his patients. Unfortunately for nurses, each of whom had more than 20 years of nursing career behind them, one of Dr. Arafiles friends and patients was the local sheriff, who helped him obtain the copy of the nurses’ complaint, from which they managed to identify them and proceed to get them fired. After the dust settled, Mitchell and Galle walked away with a $750,000 settlement and Texas laws were amended to include protection from criminal charges for whistleblowers.
5. Tuskegee syphilis experiment whistleblower case
We are continuing our list of examples of whistleblowing in nursing and healthcare with Peter Buxtun that is the oldest whistleblower in healthcare on our list. In 1966, Buxtun worked for the United States Public Health Service. During his employment, he learned about the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, in which African American farmers were deceived that they were treated for syphilis, while in fact they were observed to monitor the natural development of untreated illness and never given a proper treatment. Buxtun filed two official complaints, one in 1966 and another in 1968. Both were rejected. Finally, in 1972, he leaked his findings to the media. The news ended up on the front page of the New York Times and resulted in a Congressional hearing.
4. Wendell Potter whistleblowing case
Next in line on our list of examples of whistleblowing in nursing and healthcare is the Wendell Potter’s testimony in front of the U.S. Senate caused a huge stir in the eve of passing Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. His exposure of health insurance companies’ practices in poor and rural regions of the United States painted a grim picture similar to those we often find in third world countries. The fact that it came from a former vice-president of Cigna, one of the largest health insurers in the world, gave him a huge credibility and ensured that his whistleblowing had far-reaching consequences.
3. University of Texas Medical Branch whistleblowing case
At number three on our list of examples of whistleblowing in nursing and healthcare we have Stephanie Hohman and Lisa Lippert that were registered nurses working in University of Texas Medical Branch emergency room when Dr. William Mileski was hired to improve the quality of procedures performed there. Both nurses soon after noticed a pattern in which patients were declared “trauma evaluation” cases and “subjected to a myriad of painful, unwanted, and at times unnecessary procedures, to which the patients refused, resisted, and/or to which they unknowingly submitted based on false information that the procedure was necessary to preserve their health.” After they filled a complaint, both hospital and Dr. Mileski personally unleashed a string of harassment that eventually brought them to resignation. Nurses won a case and were awarded compensation for lost wages and compensatory damages.
2. Dr. William Miofsky whistleblowing case
After witnessing anesthesiologist Dr. Miofsky repeatedly rubbing his groin on the faces of unconscious patients in operating room – including a 12-year old girl – nurse assisting in operation Sandra Doll Neri informed Allyne Waters O’Kane, the chief OR nurse. Her claims were dismissed as “nonsense”. Unfortunately for Dr. Miofsky, nurse Neri was a stubborn woman. She organized other nurses in the hospital and soon after they put together a case, documenting Dr. Miofsky sexual harassments. He was sent to Atascadero State Hospital, while nurse O’Kane lost her license.
1. Stefan P. Kruszewski whistleblowing case
The most successful case on our list of 6 examples of whistleblowing in nursing and healthcare is Stefan P. Kruszewski. He blew the whistle on the inadequate care of mentally ill children in state’s care three times, winning cases against Southwood Psychiatric Hospital, Pfizer, Inc., and AstraZeneca. The children were routinely overmedicated and kept under restraint, both physical and chemical. He was fired from Department of Public Welfare after he refused to keep quiet about his findings but managed to win a lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania for unlawful termination.