Doctors Around Country Outraged at Wisc. “Fake Sick Note” Scam

MacIver News Service | February 6, 2012

[Madison, Wisc…] A dozen doctors from Wisconsin and around the country contacted the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing to express their disappointment in the doctors accused of writing fake sick notes to protesters on February 18, 2011 at the Capitol, according to documents obtained by the MacIver News Service.

Some of the doctors expressed concern, others outrage, and some even filed formal complaints against the sick note doctors. In general, the doctors felt the incident reflected poorly on the entire medical profession.

“If the above is true, then it is unprofessional and unethical,” wrote Dr. Ronald Long. “Certainly it is a fraud against the citizens and medical board of Wisconsin.”

The documents were turned over to MNS in response to an open records request.

The controversy surrounding doctors handing out fake sick notes to protesters skipping work during the February 2011 protests erupted after a MacIver News Service report, which documented the incident. The Wisconsin Medical Examining Board eventually identified seven of the doctors and issued them reprimands.

Many of the doctors who complained to the board before the judgment, suggested far more severe punishments. Some even called for criminal charges.

“I believe this physician’s [Shropeshire] medical license should be revoked,” wrote Dr. Susan Torhorst.

“This is a mockery of medicine, and a complete fraud.  There is no ‘sickness’ here, and such behavior by trusted professionals in your state is completely unacceptable and illegal,” wrote Dr. Paul Maguire.

“If culpable, the man [Dr. Shropshire] should have his license suspended and rehabilitated as to the appropriate purpose of his privilege,” wrote Dr. Scott Sweeney.

“While all people, including physicians, are entitled to our own political and other opinions, there is clearly a line drawn when it comes to utilizing the priviledges of licensure in the manner exhibited by Dr. Shropshire,” wrote Dr. Stewart Eads Jr.  “Specifically, in the State of Wisconsin, this unprofessional conduct is expressly prohibited by Wisconsin law under ‘Administrative Code Med 10.02(2)(m)’ which unambiguously prohibits ‘Knowingly making any false statement, written or oral, in practicing under any license, with fraudulent intent.’”

Six of the seven sick note doctors were affiliated with the University of Wisconsin. The University said it decided to discipline the doctors, but they are appealing it. UW won’t release any other information about the incident until the appeals process is over. However, a retired professor with the Medical college was happy to share his thoughts with the Medical Examining Board.

Dr. Jeffrey Jones, retired Professor of Medicine at the UW Medical School, listed three specific points about the incident. 1. “The so-called patient-physician interaction and care which occurred was well below any reasonable community standard of care.” 2. “The incident makes a mockery of a licensed physician’s role as a neutral judge of biological facts, a role which is important to the well being of the public.” 3. “The physicians have faculty appointments with the University of Wisconsin Medical School, and provide a very poor model for physicians in training.”

“These physicians have disgraced the Medical profession in general and the UW Medical School in particular. The black eye given to the University on the national stage is well deserved,” wrote Dr. Andre Thebert. “Providing cover for protesters by handing out phony medical excuses is fraud, pure and simple.”

A doctor from the Medical College of Virginia wrote directly to two of the doctors.

“If this report is not true, such a vicious allegation would be an excellent ‘teachable moment’ to set before your students as an example of how ‘activism’ by professionals charged with the highest levels of professional conduct can be misinterpreted to the detriment of the profession as a whole,” wrote Dr. Raleigh Powell, Medical College of Virginia. “If the activities in the article are indeed true I would hope that you recognize by now the unethical nature of this activity and not only cease and desist but also apologize for the insult to the profession that such a lapse of judgement [sic] represents.”

The Medical Examining Board reprimanded only seven doctors in connection with the incident, first reported by the MacIver News Service in February 2011, wherein doctors were handing out sick notes to protesters who had skipped work and needed an excuse. The University of Wisconsin said it identified 22 doctors who might have taken part. The Wisconsin State Journal reported a committee of the board plans to decide this month whether to investigate the additional doctors.

To date, no one from the Medical Examining Board has requested a copy of the MNS footage of the incident.