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White Coat Notes

Pick for discipline panel is under fire

Excerpts from the Globe’s health care blog.

A $4.65 million settlement after a baby’s brain was damaged during delivery. A $3.5 settlement after a patient’s cancer treatment was delayed. A $1 million settlement when a woman died after an alleged misreading of an imaging test.

Andrew Meyer is one of the state’s leading medical malpractice lawyers. Many of the cases he and his firm, Lubin & Meyer, handle result in large payments to patients and their families.

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So when Governor Deval Patrick in September nominated Meyer’s wife, Kathleen, to fill a public appointment on the board that oversees doctor discipline, some physicians were concerned.

Three medical specialty groups have sent letters to Patrick’s office calling for him to reconsider. Kathleen Meyer’s presence on the board presents at least the appearance of a conflict of interest, they say.

But Meyer’s supporters say her appointment was a bold move on Patrick’s part, part of a broader overhaul of the seven-member panel, and that it sends a signal that the group is committed to protecting patients.

Meyer also is a lawyer, though she has not practiced in the private sector since 1994. She replaced Judge Herbert Hodos after Patrick chose not to reappoint him.

Dr. Richard Aghababian, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, in a letter to Patrick dated Dec. 7, expressed “universal dismay among physicians” over Meyer’s selection, and the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society wrote last month that her presence could undermine physicians’ due process.

“We believe strongly that the appointment of the spouse of a prominent Massachusetts medical malpractice attorney is not in keeping with the level of care and concern for how our government is viewed by its citizens,” Dr. Alex Sabo, president of psychiatric group, said in a Jan. 4 letter.

Kate Cook, the governor’s chief legal counsel, responded to Sabo Feb. 4 with a letter explaining the requirements of the public appointee: They must not have been involved in the medical profession during the five years preceding the appointment and must not be related to someone who is licensed by the board. Meyer meets those requirements, and her husband’s job does not present a conflict, Cook wrote.

“The Governor believes her experience and skills make her well-suited to represent the public,” she said.

Cook noted that Meyer was vetted by the State Ethics Commission and “is aware of the circumstances under which she would need to recuse herself” from board proceedings. The same response letter was sent to the Massachusetts Medical Society.

Meyer said in an interview Friday that it is “literally and factually impossible” for her to share details of cases with her husband’s firm. Patient names are redacted from all records that the board reviews.

For the full blog, visit
boston.com/whitecoatnotes. Chelsea Conaboy can be reached at cconaboy@boston.com. Follow her on ­Twitter @cconaboy.
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