Sunday, February 4, 2001
Harris County medical examiner
fined for illegal autopsies, keeps job
HOUSTON (AP) Harris County's chief
medical examiner was fined $1,000 on Friday as part of a settlement
reach with the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners for allowing
an unlicensed pathologist to perform autopsies.
Dr. Joye Carter had faced stiffer punishment,
including revocation of her medical license and the loss of her
job, as a result of the investigation.
The agreement ends a three-year controversy
that erupted when it was revealed that Carter had hired Delbert
Van Dusen and allowed him to perform autopsies, including some
in homicide cases, without a Texas medical license.
Under the Medical Practice Act, performing
autopsies constitutes the practice of medicine. The state board
said Carter denied she knowingly violated the act.
Her lawyer, Sam Stone, said Carter thought
it was legal to allow Van Dusen to perform autopsies because state
law does not say specifically that his or her staff must be licensed.
The law does require a chief medical examiner to have a Texas
Van Dusen joined the medical examiner's
office in August 1997 and performed up to 200 autopsies before
it was revealed to the Harris County District Attorney's Office
that he didn't have a Texas medical license.
Van Dusen, who was licensed to practice
in Georgia and Indiana, received his Texas license after several
rejections and a no-bill by a grand jury that investigated whether
he illegally practiced medicine.
Opponents tried to have Carter fired for
the Van Dusen incident and for attracting two whistleblower lawsuits,
both of which the county lost. In October 1999, Harris County
commissioners split on whether to fire Carter after they concluded
their an investigation.
Stone said Friday's settlement clears his
Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack,
a frequent Carter critic, said the board's order pretty
much ends the present episode.
I'm not about to second-guess those
people in Austin, he said.
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Copyright ©2001, Abilene
Reporter-News / Texnews / E.W. Scripps Publications