Justices rule Medical Board violated doctor’s rights
By Michael King, 9:00AM, Mon. Jun. 6, 2022
In an extraordinary June 3 opinion, the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that the Texas Medical Board acted “ultra vires” – beyond its authority – in refusing to clear Dr. Robert Van Boven’s name with the National Practitioner Data Bank.
The decision means that Van Boven is a major step closer to being able to resume his medical practice as a neurologist. In a dispute that officially began in 2015, Van Boven has repeatedly defeated the TMB’s attempts to sanction him for allegations that the Board itself agreed were unsustained, yet refused to expunge from his NPDB record – the federal record of allegations against doctors, which is consulted by medical employers when making hiring decisions.
On September 29, Van Boven himself had presented his case to SCOTX, arguing that by refusing to “void” or delete a federal NPDB listing against him of previous allegations (of “boundary violations”) – allegations of which he had been exonerated by the State Office of Administrative Hearings – the TMB was effectively ruining his reputation and barring him from practicing his profession.
In its opinion – an 8-1 decision authored by Chief Justice Nathan Hecht – the Supreme Court ruled that failing to void the NPDB listing (as required by federal regulations) “would amount to an ultra vires action.” The ruling overturned a Third Court of Appeals opinion that the TMB was protected from Van Boven’s suit by sovereign immunity, and remanded the case to state district court for remediation. Presumably, the district court will now direct the TMB to clear Van Boven’s federal record.
“My gut reaction,” Van Boven told the Chronicle, “I feel like Shawshank’s Redemption” – referring to the prison film in which a wrongfully convicted inmate eventually escapes to freedom. Van Boven’s ordeal is not yet concluded, but after seven years of legal battles appears to be nearing a vindication.
This is an ongoing story, and we’ll have more on the details and background in due course. For the full history, see austinchronicle.com/robert-van-boven.
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