TOUCHED BY LYME: Arguing "burden of proof" for Dr. Charles Ray Jones
The Lyme-treating pediatrician who has been harassed by the medical board for years appealed his case to the CT Supreme Court on Thursday.
Dr. Sheila Statlender, a long-time supporter of Dr. Jones, sent this email summarizing what happened in court:
I attended Dr. Jones’ hearing before the CT Supreme Court yesterday. The proceeding began at 10 a.m. and it was done by noon. Hard to say how it went: we watched the backs of the two attorneys as they presented their oral arguments before 6 out of 7 justices. The acoustics were terrible, although the room and building itself are beautiful and quite imposing. Some of the presentation was quite technical and somewhat challenging to follow. The decision may not be rendered for several weeks, if not months.
The issue being argued is quite specific, and revolves around a particular point of law that will have relevance for all physicians: whether the burden (standard) of proof applied to physicians in medical board proceedings (“preponderance of evidence”) is too light, making it easier to rule against them in cases of alleged misconduct.
By comparison, the standard applied to attorneys is higher: “clear and convincing evidence.” For criminal proceedings, the standard is the highest: “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Attorney Pollack argued, among other things, that it makes no sense to apply a more stringent burden of proof to attorneys than to physicians, and furthermore, that physicians have multiple other points in their professional practices where peer review and other mechanisms help to ensure their good conduct. He also critiqued somewhat the problems which can occur when a small panel passes its recommendations along to the fuller medical board, and argued that the potential sanctions (e.g., loss of professional licensure, damaged reputation, high fines and monitoring fees) justify the application of a higher burden of proof.
Somewhat ironically, yesterday was also Dr. Jones’ 84th birthday. He shared that this is the third birthday that he has spent in court because of these charges, which have been ongoing for ten (!) years now.
A reporter from the AP was there covering the hearing and spoke with us at some length afterwards.
Let’s all keep our fingers crossed!
TOUCHED BY LYME is written by Dorothy Kupcha Leland, LymeDisease.org’s VP for Education and Outreach. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.