Does JPS Have a Plug-Pulling Problem?

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A medical director at Tarrant County’s John Peter Smith Hospital has allegedly been pulling the plug on patients she deems worthy of death, without family consent or an ethics panel decision, in violation of state law. Sources tell Direct Action Texas there are numerous patients who have fallen victim to this doctor’s plug-pulling habit in the past year.

State statute outlines a clear process for hospitals to follow for end of life decisions. There are three ways to legally terminate care.

  • Have the family (guardian) grant consent. This is the most difficult decision a family member can face.
  • In the absence of family consent, an ethics panel of medical professionals must make the decision. This is a 12-day process. The family must first be notified 48 hours prior to the panel convening. Then, if the panel decides to terminate care, the family must be given a 10-day notice before the decision is carried out.
  • A doctor can terminate care if they determine the patient to be medically “brain dead.” This is a slippery slope as the medical community does not have a clear consensus on the definition of brain dead. There are, however, several tests that can be used to make this diagnosis.

Sources have told Direct Action Texas that patient’s lives have been ended without family consent, a decision of the ethics panel, or any testing to determine the patient was brain dead or any indication of that assertion. This doctor is allegedly skipping all three steps and taking it upon herself to make the final decision to pull the plug.

What makes the allegations worse is that the hospital’s management appears to have swept the alleged wrongdoing under the rug. A physician’s panel did review the case and suggested the doctor take 30 days off while they assessed the situation. Our sources indicate that never happened, rather she continued to practice normally. Due to increased pressure resulting from DAT’s inquiries, it appears she is now no longer a part of the physician’s group, but she still maintains admitting privileges at JPS. Could she be receiving special treatment because she worked in a high leadership capacity at the hospital and within the physician’s group?

Our original source for the story claimed this doctor has illegally terminated as many as 10 patients in March alone. Since then additional sources, both medical and administrative, have confirmed there are multiple instances. Medical records are sealed, and the resulting inaccessibility to information makes it is impossible to determine the exact number. The very laws written to protect patients can be used to protect potential negligence and wrongdoing of hospitals and doctors.

This is not the first time JPS has been in the spot light for failing to protect patients. Last year JPS came under scrutiny for potentially faulty mammograms given to over 4,000 indigent patients. This resulted in an investigation that lead to fines paid by JPS. WFAA reported the story about the JPS equipment that was out of caliber for an undetermined amount of time, causing the potential misdiagnosis of patients. JPS tried to keep the story quiet, but sources close to the hospital notified DAT and we tipped WFAA to the story.

As one can imagine, keeping a story about a malefactor under wraps takes masterful skill and experience. Enter Robert Early, CEO of JPS and highest paid bureaucrat in Tarrant County. As successful as they have been at burying this, DAT’s questions, open records requests, and phone calls, have raised some questions by insiders. Each one who has approached Early about this has been told the incident(s) never happened. Mr. Early believes denial on his part will be enough. It was with great interest that DAT learned that JPS legal counsel, Neal Adams, instructed the physician board to hire outside counsel, while they deny any wrongdoing.

Where is the board of managers on this latest potential scandal? It is unclear how much they know, but if they know it might not make much of a difference. The board is stacked with the political appointees of the County Commissioners who are fearful of rocking the boat and exposing embarrassing problems inside JPS. They have long served as a rubber stamp to the wishes of Robert Early. In all of DAT’s dealings with JPS we have yet to find anyone on the board who is willing to ask hard questions and take Robert Early to task. No one.

JPS was established to serve those who are low-income and in need of help. Instead the patients are becoming victims. Thousands of women were subjected to faulty mammograms and now it appears patients are in jeopardy of an early death from a doctor making unilateral end of life decisions. Her victims are the low-income, minority patients JPS is supposed to serve.

As JPS prepares to ask Tarrant County taxpayers for a billion-plus dollar bond, those taxpayers should ask what they are getting for their investment. Can current management be trusted with that investment? Is it time for new leadership?

Direct Action Texas will continue to report on this story as it unfolds.

 

If you or a family member believe you may have been victims of JPS’s unethical behavior, please reach out to Direct Action Texas at info@directactiontx.com.

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