Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: How to invalidate an advocate for women.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

How to invalidate an advocate for women.

Take away her license to practice medicine.

Dr. Colleen Murphy OB-gyn has long been an advocate for women's health and personal choice in the very conservative State of Alaska. She achieved national attention in 2002 leading Alaska in a push for greater access to "emergency contraception," also known as the "morning after pill." In 2004, Dr. Murphy joined other physicians in protesting Alaska's new requirement, directing that women must first receive "unbiased" information from a state-run website:

In September of 2004, sixteen Alaskan obstetricians and gynecologists sent a letter protesting the state-prepared internet website to lawmakers, the governor, the Supreme Court and doctors in their field. Colleen Murphy, an obstetrician who signed the letter, said the website's real purpose would be to deter women from getting abortions and that doctors already ensure that pregnant women are fully informed about risks.
Dr. Murphy has also been outspoken regarding what she and many others see as an over-reliance in the OB community on Ceasarian Sections as opposed to natural birth. As a result, she prides herself on her low C-section rate (8 to 10%) compared to the 25 - 30% of others at Anchorage hospitals.

Recently, The Alaska State Medical Board proposed new regulation to limit Alaska women's access to emergency contraception, backsliding on the documented strides made (much of it as a result of Dr. Murphy's efforts) towards safer birth control and fewer abortions. Dr. Murphy authored an article published in the Anchorage Daily News "Compass" section several weeks ago (July 7th). In this article, she criticizes the State Medical Board:

On June 9, the state medical board proposed a companion amendment to pharmacy regulations, titled "Cooperative practice with pharmacists." This new medical regulation is intended to create oversight of medical providers who enter into pharmacy agreements with licensed pharmacists. Hidden within this proposed regulation is a new requirement that the physician must perform an annual physical exam and directly issue a prescription before a patient could obtain a prescription through a cooperative pharmacy agreement.
She also points out the parallels with legislation that had been promoted by a conservative State Sentor who is also an anti-birth control advocate.

In the 2004 legislative session, Sen. Fred Dyson, an opponent of EC, introduced legislation to eliminate pharmacy regulations allowing collaborative agreements. The Alaska State Medical Board now appears to be acting on his behalf.
Remember the date on that article - July 7, 2005.

On Thursday, July 7th, an emergency meeting of the Alaska State Medical Board was called and the decision to suspend her license was made during a teleconference that was mostly closed to the public...a teleconference where Dr. Murphy had initially planned on voicing her opposition to the proposed changes in the Emergency Contraception Program. The Board chose to do this without waiting until their next board meeting.

Dr. Murphy's obstetric priviledges had been restricted since April at Alaska Regional Hospital. This raises the question, why such an emergency now?

At the time, Stockler(Murphy's lawyer)said, Murphy requested a hospital hearing about the matter, which is set for early August. Stockler said he couldn't understand why the medical board removed her license Thursday -- more than three months after Alaska Regional restricted her privileges but three weeks before the hospital hearing.
Important points must be emphasized regarding this case:

1) There has been no evidence that Alaska Regional Hospital's restriction, as the result of a review of 10 of Dr. Murphy's cases, occurred due to any deaths, injuries, or complaints or accusations of malpractice from any of those patients. As a matter of record, Dr. Murphy still retains those patients within her practice. When asked why the review, Alaska Regional's response has been that it "periodically review's cases."

2) Dr. Murphy has no such restriction at Alaska's largest hospital, Providence Health Center.

3) Reviewing the summaries of other license suspensions by the Alaska State Medical Board over the last several years, it appears that ALL have been as the result of actual criminal wrongdoing.

4) The Medical Board not only revoked her OB license, it also revoked her GYN license which was NOT under any type of review or restriction at any facility.

Dr. Murphy is presently involved in a hearing in an attempt to get her license reinstated. Interestingly enough, some of the Medical Board issues are being called into question:

After listening to hours of testimony, Hemenway summarized what the hearing seemed to be about: Whether Murphy should stop some women in labor from having vaginal births and move sooner to Caesarean sections instead.

"And isn't that a matter of judgment?" Hemenway asked Dr. Wendy Cruz, the first witness called by the state and a member of the Alaska Regional Hospital review committee.

"It's very much a matter of judgment," Cruz answered.

Cruz, an Anchorage obstetrician, repeatedly acknowledged obstetrics is an art and that some doctors who deliver babies worry about litigation to the point that the concern affects how they practice medicine.

Friday's testimony revealed that a number of doctors, some of them practicing outside Alaska, reviewed Murphy's cases and came to different conclusions about the quality of her work. In his opening arguments on behalf of Murphy, Stockler said two of three additional doctors asked to review Murphy's work found it good.
I have been following this case closely, since I used Dr. Murphy as my OB-gyn for a short time. She was by far the most knowledgeable person about birth control methods that I've ever met. She offered alternatives no one else mentioned (I have health risks that prevent me from using many of the common methods.) While I have heard that she is "crusty" and that many cannot click with her personality, I've heard the same things said for years about male doctors who are still practicing without incident.


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