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I had originally left this slot for a reply to my second letter to the Governor, but I have not yet received one, and at this late date (1/20/02) I do not expect one. I have, however, received a letter informing me that the PA Department of State Legal Office has decided not to prosecute the case against Dr. Barton. The letter, dated 11/6/2001, though difficult to read, is shown herein. I have retyped it in more legible size immediately following the displayed document. I follow that with my comments, including an opinion as to why the letter was sent at this time, after being held in limbo for nearly two years. The letter was addressed to an attorney who was kind enough to write a letter to Attorney Greenwald, after he refused to respond to my personal requests for status of the case. That was this attorney's only representation of me, and while I have not discussed it with him, I presume that since he had little involvement in this case, he would rather not have his name displayed in this web page. Thus I have removed it from the document.

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 November 6, 2001

Re: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs v. Robert Lestor Barton: File No. 99-49-01928

Dear Attorney XXXXXXXXXX

The Prosecution Division of the Bureau of Professional and Occupational affairs has completed its inquiry into the complaint that your client, Ron Bachman, filed against Robert Lester Barton, M.D. Please be assured that our office conducted a thorough inquiry of Mr. Bachman's complaint, including expert review of all medical records and documents related to the treatment of Mr. Bachman's mother, Betty Bachman. Additionally, the expert reviewed all of the materials that Mr. Bachman presented to the Prosecution Office after conducting an exhaustive search of what he perceived to be the pertinent medical issues on the Internet. Following a thorough review of all of the investigative and research materials and after reviewing the expert report, the determination was made that formal charges will not be filed in this case. I recognize that your client may disagree with this decision, but we are constrained by the evidence in this case.

I understand your client's feelings in this matter. I recognize that he will have a difficult time in dealing with the decision not to prosecute Dr. Barton. However, there is no other logical conclusion based upon the evidence in this case. Having met with your client and discussing this case with him, I respectfully suggest that you discuss with him the possibility of finding an appropriate grief counselor.

I want to point out that although the decision was made not to file formal charges in this case, we believe that your client's complaint and the inquiry that followed helped make the Commonwealth's system of licensing professionals run in a more efficient manner. It is only through the investigation of complaints like the one filed by Mr. Bachman in this case, that the conduct of medical professionals in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is regulated and scrutinized.

Sincerely,

Mark D. Greenwald

Prosecuting Attorney

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My comments are as follows:

Notably absent from this letter are any specifics as to why the decision was made not to prosecute the case. Dr. Barton's own records acknowledge he was aware of my mother's development of Coronary Artery disease, her development of symptoms thereof (shortness-of-breath, dyspnea, etc.), and his failure to take steps to save the life of the patient. It was only after my mother took the initiative, asking for his help, did Dr. Barton send her for tests, albeit improper cardiology tests. That too is in his records. Also in his records are phony references to proper, but never made referrals for cardiology tests. Three elements, medical negligence, incompetence, and likely (in my opinion) late-entry alteration of medical records, all evident in Dr. Barton's own records and all swept under the carpet by the following sentence. "Following a thorough review of all of the investigative and research materials and after reviewing the expert report, the determination was made that formal charges will not be filed in this case." Big brother's words "be assured that our office conducted a thorough inquiry" are as convincing as the operators of Three Mile Island's assurances that everything was "under control" in the initial hours following the nuclear accident. Contrary to attorney Greenwald's suggestion that I will have a difficult time dealing with the decision not to prosecute Dr. Barton, that is not the case. The disappointment came last spring and summer (2001), after reviewing all publicly available data on disciplinary actions (3 years, 5 months at the time) made by BPOA and the PA State Board of Medicine. With that review came the realization that these agencies simply will not bring charges against a practicing Pennsylvania based physician on primary charges of negligence, malpractice, or incompetence. The only two exceptions involved doctors employed at a state-run facility in a highly publicized scandal. There was another disciplinary action based on a charge of incompetence, but it was made against a physician assistant.

On October 16, 2001, I attended a Patient Safety Rally at the Capital sponsored by Citizens for Consumer Justice. While there I visited Senator Brightbill's office and expressed my concerns about the delay in prosecuting my mother's case to one of his legislative aides. During our conversation, I made what now appears to have been a mistake by mentioning this web page. Earlier in our conversation, the aide promised to look into the matter and inform me of the results, but she has never contacted me. On October 26 I telephoned her to see if she had made any progress in her efforts. She was curt, said she had other priorities. That was the last I spoke with her.

I believe that visit and my reference to this web page were the triggers for the letter I received dated November 6, 2001. I believe the PA State Board of Medicine and the DOS Legal Office would have been quite content to sit on this case until Dr. Barton retired, had they not been made aware of this web page and the potential public scrutiny it provides. Evidence suggests the decision not to prosecute this type of case is never made, but is a given. However, the decision to send the letter stating thus was likely made because under public scrutiny, DOS Legal and the State Board of Medicine appear less foolish refusing to prosecute than cling to their 23-month contention that the State of Pennsylvania cannot find a cardiologist to review the case. Perhaps one of the efficiency changes Attorney Greenwald alludes to in his letter will be to flush out all complaints earlier in the system and thus decrease the likelihood of criticism. For it was during the long delay in bringing this case to a hearing that I decided to attend one based on medical malpractice/ negligence, only to discover there weren't any.  

 

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