Sunday, June 17, 2012

In the Aftermath of the Raid on My Medical Clinic

     My lawyers would advise me against writing this blog.  I am supposed to listen to my lawyers.  But they admit that they are helpless to protect me against the government’s unfounded attack on me and in fact they have been unable to maneuver me out of the position in which I now find myself more than one year after the raid on my medical clinic. 
      It may be a case of malignant innocence on my part, because I know that American history is rife with stories like mine about victims of injustice who are never exonerated despite their innocence, but I hope that by publicizing my story I will raise awareness in this country about the circumstances under which physicians are forced to practice.
     Corrupt governments need an enemy, even if the enemy is the government’s own citizens.  There are stark reminders of this every day in the news:  ethnic cleansing, gunfire into crowds of nonviolent protestors, tolerance of torture, and incarceration or murder of journalists and intellectuals--the methods used by governments to secure their hegemony.  These governments are out of control and have ceased to protect citizens.  A corrupt government is megalomanic, self-serving, stupid, incapable of focusing the investigative lens on itself.  A corrupt government eviscerates itself in the act of attacking those who carry its energy and life-force.
     During the raid on my clinic on June 16, 2011 the two FBI agents who--empowered by their position, uniforms and sealed affidavits--spoke authoritatively, even angrily, with me, were not curious or friendly. They had already made up their minds.  They were certain of my guilt. 
     “What about due process?” I asked.  “Aren’t I ‘innocent until proven guilty’?”  
     They seemed to sneer.
     “You are exacting punishment without waiting for a trial and conviction.”
     They did not respond.  My questions hovered in the air like the smell of rank meat.  
     Special Agent Robert Murphy stared at me, waited a few moments, and shot out his message.  “This is your chance to ask any questions.”
     I realized that he had not registered my first two.  
     “Okay.  What is going on?  Why are you taking everything out of my office?”
     No answer.
     “If I’m guilty of something bad enough to justify a raid of this proportion, why aren’t you taking away my license to practice medicine, or shutting down the clinic?”
     Agent Murphy raised his voice,  “Believe me, if I could have convinced the judge to shut this place down today, I would have!”
     His words alarmed me. This man had a mission.  He was livid.  I was grateful that there were some small limitations on the power granted to FBI agents.
     I requested the charts back.  “Can’t you just scan them?  We need the medical charts in order to take care of our patients.” 
      When will we get them back?”
      Agent Carrissa Bowling spoke up, saying it would be four to six weeks.  She repeated this statement to the nurse practitioner who asked the same question in the hallway after I was through with the FBI agents.. 
     More than a year later the charts have not been returned to us.  When patients have requested their records in the interceding months we gave them the phone number and address of the FBI office in Tallahassee, where all the office charts and property were relocated.  The FBI agents told these patients that it was my responsibility to get the records back and that I should be held liable for any damages accruing from the confiscation of the records.  However the FBI refused, unconditionally, to return the original documents.
     They suggested a procedure for us to retrieve copies of individual records, on a case-by-case basis, when of vital importance for patients.  Their procedure was strangely, impossibly cumbersome.  I will describe it in a future post.
     After my “interview” I was forced to vacate the office.  The FBI agents could not say how long they would continue their occupation and they forbade me or my staff from re-entering or watching the proceedings.  I went to a local cafe with a few loyal staff members to wait, but it wasn’t until after 8 pm that the FBI had finished its court-sanctioned tasks.  Our office hours were 6 am to 10 pm.  We decided not to re-open the clinic that evening.
     We cleaned up the debris left by the intrusion, bought manila folders to use as transitional charts, and relied on our memories to treat the patients who filled the waiting room the following day.  I scrutinized the inventory list of items taken by the FBI, as well as the Search and Seize Order, then threw them into one of my empty desk drawers.  They were ghost documents with not a clue about the government’s motivation.
     Several staff members resigned their positions, frightened by the investigation.  They thought that they and their families were at risk.  But they knew the clinic had not been involved in any activity that could be construed as criminal.  Some of them had known and worked with me for years.
     So why did the FBI raid the office, and why with such armory and determination?
     The story moves forward to the next memorable date, August 6, 2011.  

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