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Maryland lawmaker-doctor fined and reprimanded for tuning into legislative meetings from the operating room

A Maryland state delegate who is also a doctor is being reprimanded and ordered to pay a $15,000 fine by the state physicians board after she twice attended legislative meetings via Zoom while in the operating room.

Del. Terri Hill signed a consent order agreeing to the disciplinary actions from the Maryland Board of Physicians.

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Hill, a Democrat representing parts of Howard and Baltimore counties, issued a statement Friday night that read in part: “As a physician and a professional, I always look for ways to improve my practice. Sometimes this includes accepting constructive criticism from others. I accept the Board’s decision that I could have done better.”

She previously defended her actions, saying in March: “Had there been any safety or privacy concerns, then I wouldn’t have done it.”

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The Baltimore Sun first reported in March that Hill, who is a board-certified plastic surgeon, participated on camera in legislative meetings while she appeared to be in the operating room.

In one instance, during an hourlong committee voting session on March 12, Hill’s Zoom feed showed multiple gowned and masked figures moving around, with operating room lights visible. Hill did not speak or address the voting session.

During an earlier public hearing on Feb. 19 in a different committee, Hill appeared to step away from an operating room patient to briefly present a bill she was sponsoring to other lawmakers.

Both meetings were streamed on the General Assembly’s website and YouTube channels.

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Delegate Dr. Terri Hill of Howard County, a plastic surgeon, apparently appearing during a committee hearing from an operating room. This is a frame grab made from the March 12 meeting of the House Health and Government Operations committee.
Delegate Dr. Terri Hill of Howard County, a plastic surgeon, apparently appearing during a committee hearing from an operating room. This is a frame grab made from the March 12 meeting of the House Health and Government Operations committee. (handout)

After The Baltimore Sun reported on Hill’s actions, a retired doctor submitted a complaint to the Maryland Board of Physicians, which licenses and oversees doctors and other medical professionals. The doctor cited the newspaper’s reporting in his complaint. He also said he filed a complaint to the legislature’s ethics committee; that committee operates confidentially and has not announced any actions.

House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, declined to comment on the matter.

A Board of Physicians disciplinary panel opened an investigation, interviewing Hill and others, reviewing medical records and watching the videos of the meetings.

Hill told the panel that each patient “gave permission” for her to join the meetings during surgeries, according to a consent order issued by the board on Oct. 19.

The Feb. 19 surgery was a “major abdominal surgery” performed at a “regional hospital” that was not identified in the board’s order. Hill appeared on screen with a solid blue background but was wearing a surgical gown, surgical cap and face mask. When Hill was asked where she was, she said: “I’m at work, yes. You’re at work. I’m at work.”

The patient told investigators that she did not recall being asked about her surgeon attending a video meeting during surgery. Further, she told the investigators that “it was a little discomforting that attention was taken away from her during surgery,” the panel found.

The March 12 surgery was “major abdominal and back surgery” that was performed at a surgery center, according to the board’s order.

Though Hill and others were visible during the video meeting, she did not speak. The meeting was a voting session, and that committee’s practice is that lawmakers are recorded as a “yes” on bills unless they speak up and request to be counted as a “no.”

That patient said she was told 10 minutes before the surgery about the video meeting and agreed that was OK. But there was no consent form in the patient’s file, the panel found.

A nurse who was present told the board that Hill directed her to log into the video meeting, prop the phone on medical equipment and mute it. The nurse told the board she was uncomfortable, but felt she “could not tell the physician what to do,” the panel found.

Ultimately the Board of Physicians’ disciplinary panel found that Hill “is guilty of unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine,” a violation of state law.

In addition to being officially reprimanded, Hill must pay the $15,000 fine within one year. She remains a licensed physician in Maryland.

Being a state delegate or senator is technically a part-time position — usually a 90-day legislative session and then various meetings throughout the year — for which lawmakers are paid $50,330 per year. Most juggle their legislative position with other jobs.

During the 2021 General Assembly session, most committee hearings and meetings were held via video due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers logged into the meetings from their Annapolis offices, hotel rooms, homes and occasionally their cars.

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