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State Medical Commission Censures Port Angeles Physician for Hastening Death of Baby.

OLYMPIA, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 20, 1999--

The state Medical Quality Assurance Commission today found Dr. Eugene F. Turner incompetent in his care of a 3-day-old Port Angeles baby. The order censures Turner and requires him to comply with all state medical laws.

Censure is a written acknowledgement that a provider has violated a state medical law. This will remain on his disciplinary record permanently, but does not limit the scope of his practice.

"The commission's main concern is protecting the public from unsafe care," said Bonnie King, executive director of the Medical Commission. "Turner's actions in this case were an isolated incident taking place in extraordinary circumstances. Therefore, the commission feels censure and his participation in the hearing process are sufficient to protect the public from further harm."

The order reads:

The care of an infant is one of the most challenging situations a physician faces. There is no established protocol for the treatment of infants during their dying process, and so the physician must rely on his or her judgement in choosing a course of action. However, in this case the physician chose a course of action that is not acceptable under current standards of medicine: using his hand to occlude the infant's airway by pinching the nose and covering the mouth, with the result that the infant's circulation and respiration stopped.

The commission found that two other charges against Turner -- abuse of a vulnerable patient, and conduct that lowers the esteem of his profession -- were not proven by a preponderance of the evidence.

Turner's defense argued at a May hearing that the baby was already dead when the airway was blocked.

In the order, the commission disagreed, stating that by Washington State standards the baby was not dead prior to Turner's blocking of the airway. King said: "They went on to say that the blocking of the airway resulted in the baby meeting the legal definition of death. But that action did not cause the baby's death, the commission stated." "In fact the cause of death was an unexplained event at home," King said.

Turner admitted that on Jan. 12, 1998, he pinched the baby's nose, covered the mouth with his hand, and blocked the airway until there was no detectable breathing or heartbeat.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Jul 22, 1999
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