Medical regulators are accusing Dr. Michael A. Palmer of gross negligence, saying the Eureka surgeon failed to repair one patient’s hernia correctly and created false or misleading records on that patient and one other.
The episodes occurred in 2010 and 2011, according to a formal accusation that the state Attorney General’s Office has filed on behalf of the Medical Board of California.
Through an attorney, Palmer denied the accusations and declined to be interviewed.
“Dr. Palmer has done nothing but provide excellent care to his patients and is confident that the Medical Board will not be able to prove that there is a basis for the claims,” attorney Michael Morrison wrote in an email to the Journal late Wednesday afternoon. The board’s allegations “are not accurate,” the email said.
The Medical Board investigates complaints against doctors, but most of those complaints never rise to the level of a formal accusation. First, the board’s staffers have to think there is enough merit to assign an investigator. Then, as the matter is investigated, “we have a burden of proof we have to meet for the Attorney General’s Office,” said Cassandra Hockenson, the board’s public affairs manager.
The Oct. 30 accusation against Palmer outlines two cases, starting with “SM,” a woman who was seen by Palmer’s physician assistant in late 2009 and then scheduled for surgery in January. Before the operation, a transcription made its way into hospital records of what the accusation calls a “purported” physical examination done on Jan. 12. The trouble with that? When board investigators questioned Palmer, “respondent acknowledged that he did not see SM at any time before the morning of the January 13, 2010 surgery.”
Failing to ever see his patient or counsel her before operating on her is one of three counts of “gross negligence” levied at the doctor by the state, which called it “an extreme departure from the standard of care.”
The second piece of “gross negligence” was the surgery itself, which didn’t fix the hernia that was of primary concern, the accusation said. A different doctor had to operate a second time, in July 2011, it added.
The third negligent episode, according to the state, involved a pediatric patient called “CB,” who also was seen by Palmer’s physician assistant. The youngster’s hernia surgery went well, but the doctor’s failure to see his patient beforehand constituted another “extreme departure from the standard of care,” the accusation said.
On top of that, the state also accused Palmer of creating “false or misleading” records on both patients.
The case against the doctor now goes to an administrative hearing office, which would preside over a trial-like procedure unless the Medical Board and the doctor reach a settlement beforehand. Possible penalties include being put on probation, being forbidden from supervising physician assistants, or even having his license to practice medicine suspended or revoked.