Complaints have been filed with the Maryland Board of Physicians and the General Assembly’s ethics committee against a state lawmaker who twice joined legislative meetings by video from the operating room.
Del. Terri Hill, a board-certified plastic surgeon, has acknowledged she twice logged in from the OR, once in February to testify on a bill and once for about an hour this month during a voting session.
She defended the practice as not much different from listening to music or a recorded book while in the OR. She said she had the patients’ permission and kept their safety and privacy at top of mind.
“There are no attention-to-duty issues and there’s no dereliction-of-duty issues,” she said Monday.
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After The Baltimore Sun reported Tuesday on Hill’s operating room appearances, a Towson physician said he filed complaints with the Maryland Board of Physicians and the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.
Hill declined Tuesday to comment. The Democrat represents parts of Baltimore and Howard counties.
The complainant, Dr. Alan L. Robin, said he was “outraged and appalled” when he learned of the doctor-delegate participating in video meetings from the operating room.
Robin retired from active practice two years ago as an ophthalmologist and specialist in glaucoma surgery. He remains a licensed physician and works as the executive vice president of the American Glaucoma Society.
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Robin said that patients undergoing surgery need medical professionals who are entirely attuned to their needs. He questioned whether Hill could simultaneously give sufficient attention to medical duties and legislative duties.
“To me, personally, surgery is a very serious thing,” Robin said in an interview.
“This doctor should lose her license if the statements in the Baltimore Sun are correct,” Robin wrote in his complaint, which he shared with The Sun. “She is endangering a patient’s wellbeing by not focusing on the surgery and/or delaying a case by zooming with the legislature. This behavior is not appropriate and should not be allowed.”
Representatives of the state medical board could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Maryland Policy & Politics
Robin said he also sent a complaint to the legislative ethics committee, a panel of delegates and senators that considers accusations of ethical violations by lawmakers. He received a reply from a committee attorney who wrote: “The committee will review this complaint at a future meeting.”
The ethics committee’s work is conducted confidentially during closed-door meetings and is only made public if the committee recommends disciplinary action against a lawmaker. The ethics committee does not have any meetings scheduled.
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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the General Assembly has conducted most of its committee hearings remotely and broadcast them on the legislature’s website and YouTube. Lawmakers use the Zoom videoconferencing platform to participate in hearings and voting sessions.
Many lawmakers have logged into video meetings from their Annapolis offices or Annapolis hotel rooms. At other times, lawmakers have appeared from home or from their cars.
One of Hill’s appearances from the operating room was brief, as she explained a bill she was sponsoring to the House of Delegates Environment and Transportation Committee. She appeared in a face mask, face shield and head covering.
The other episode came earlier this month, when Hill’s Zoom account was logged into a voting session of the House Health and Government Operations Committee for about an hour. The video shows a room with multiple sets of surgical lights and people moving about.
The patients weren’t visible in the videos.