You were trained to practice medicine. Sure, you've taken some seminars or Continuing Education courses in health care law, but you're no legal expert. You don't have time for that. The fact is, the law is constantly in flux. New technologies can raise thorny questions about medical ethics; health crises can redefine how the healthcare industry should work. Sometimes, changes happen so suddenly that no one's quite sure what the right thing to do is.
When that happens, it can create confusion in the system, and in extreme cases, that confusion can even become a threat to your medical license. That's what happened to Dr. Hasan Gokal, a Houston doctor who faced questions in 2020 about how he handled doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Crises Require Immediate Responses
The 2019 COVID-19 crisis unfolded quickly, so quickly, in fact, that public policy struggled to keep up. Government officials, even those working in health care, didn't always get things right. Of course, the law always lags behind current events. It can take months and sometimes even years for a bill to be proposed, go through multiple rounds of debate and finally receive a vote. Even if it should become law—and lots of bills don't—government agencies must then implement it. That can mean channeling funds, writing new rules, and hiring new staff, all of which take even more time. In 2019 and 2020, thousands of people were dying every day. Doctors simply didn't have time to wait to find out what the law might eventually have to say about the crisis.
In such situations, physicians must be guided by their ethics. Ultimately, they must do what is best for their patients and the public good, in keeping with their Hippocratic Oath. That's exactly what Dr. Gokal did. After having administered several doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to patients in his practice, Dr. Gokal discovered a vaccine vial that still contained a handful of doses. Those doses were set to expire in just six hours. Evaluating all his options, Dr. Gokal made the decision to administer those remaining doses to his wife and other acquaintances, all of whom had medical conditions that made them eligible to receive the vaccine. He was subsequently fired from his position with Harris County Public Health and charged with theft from the vaccination site.
Luckily, state medical boards like the one in Texas have clear rules and procedures in place that allow doctors to defend themselves from these kinds of charges. Dr. Gokal was eventually cleared of all wrongdoing. As the Board noted, there simply were no laws in place to deal with the situation he found himself in. His case demonstrates, though, how, in an ever-changing world, anyone can wind up accused of misconduct at any time.
The Lento Law Firm Can Protect Your License
The Physician License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm knows just how hard you work and how seriously you take your ethical responsibilities. If your license is under threat for any reason, we're on your side. We know the law, and we're experienced in representing clients before state medical boards. To find out what we can do for you, contact the Lento Law Firm Team today at 888.535.3686 or use our automated response form.