AAPS and MSSNY ask Surpreme Court to Oppose Criminalization of Medicine

Posted in Doc's News

On January 21, 2014 the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and the Medical Society of the State of New York filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States in support of John Natale, MD. The brief reads in part:
Amici AAPS and MSSNY have a strong interest in opposing the over-criminalization of medicine. Specifically, Amici oppose elimination of the longstanding requirement of proof of criminal intent in connection with the federal prosecution of physicians.

The criminalization of misstatements in a physician’s own dictation is a bridge too far for expanding federal police power. The incarceration below of Petitioner John Natale, for merely making mistakes as he tried to recall details of his complex surgeries, is both untenable and unprecedented. Unless reversed, the decision expands federal prosecutorial interference with medical practice to a suffocating degree. It constitutes a step towards an Orwellian society of government control over what professionals say, in this case in a professional’s own dictation.

The jury found that Petitioner Natale did not defraud anyone in connection with errors in his dictation of operative notes.

Criminalizing speech, without requiring proof of intent to defraud, creates a new risk of imprisonment for anyone who is less than perfect in what he says – which is, of course, everyone. Perfect paperwork does not represent an optimal level of medical care, and reducing further the amount of time that a physician is able to spend with a patient, so that he can spend even more time improving documentation, is not a tradeoff that benefits anyone. Moreover, the chilling effect that results from imprisoning someone for something he said, without an intent to defraud, results in the immense harm of discouraging people from saying more.

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