Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Little Old Lady with the Bad Knee and the Unlicensed M.D.

Above is a grainy photo of a little old lady who is no longer with us. That's her hair not a pillow behind her head. It's so full and flowing she must have been proud of it. Her name is Helen M. White, or was, for she died in 2007 at the age of 80, having been born in New Boston in 1927. In 1993, if not earlier, she had the misfortune to have had a partial knee transplant operation performed by Dr. Ronald R. Turner, a Portsmouth orthopedic surgeon with a drinking problem. In February 1994, she filed suit against him for malpractice but apparently without knowing that  the Medical Board  had concluded  he was an alcoholic. Had she known, that might have made all the difference.

Any patient who has a doctor with a drinking  problem has a problem. If that doctor is an orthopedic surgeon, the patient has an even more serious problem, for not only is a surgeon's judgment affected by alcohol, so is his dexterity. An alcoholic surgeon with the slightest  tremor is more than a problem: he is dangerous. He should no more be allowed to operate on a patient's knee than he should be allowed to operate a motor vehicle. Helen White was lucky Dr. Turner was not operating on her brain. But a misaligned knee  is still painful live with. The operation was not a success, not only in her opinion but in the opinion of another orthopedic surgeon, an orthopedist not connected with the Southern Ohio Medical Center, an orthopedist not being called on the carpet by the State Medical Board for being an alcoholic, as Turner was, and an orthopedist not afraid to testify on behalf of a patient  with few financial resources.

 Here lies Helen Marie White
Who fought the good fight.
But instead of putting the heat on Turner,
They put her on the back burner.

Born in 1942,  Ronald R. Turner  began his medical career as an orthopedic surgeon in the state of New York, in July 1970, at about the age of 28.  He continued practicing in New York for about five years. Around 1975, when he was in his mid-30s, he and his wife Mary and their children  moved to Ohio living at 1130 24th St.  But the 1980 city directory shows him with two home addresses: 1130 24th and 603 Colony Drive, in Wheelersburg. By 1984 he was no longer married to Mary, for public records show that in that year  he married Carol S. Kitchen, a nurse, who  lived in an upscale neighborhood of Wheelersburg, on Havenwood Drive, which was where the newly married couple made their home.  On the basis of the restraining order she got against him in 1994,  it seems that alcoholism was causing  havoc in Turner's personal and professional life. Carol Turner  divorced him that same year, 1994, after ten years of marriage.

At the same time Turner was fending off patients’ suits in the 1990s, he was trying to fend off the Ohio Board of Medicine, which wanted him to respond to its charge that his heavy drinking had impaired his ability to carry out his duties as a physician. If Turner had  submitted to the disciplinary authority of  the Board of Medicine and if the Board had suspended or at least censured him for alcoholism, he might have lost at least one if not all three of the suits against him, not to speak of the other suits he might have to contend with when his alcoholism was a matter of public record. Turner could have taken his medicine, enrolled in a Board-approved 12-step program for alcoholics,  achieved sobriety, regained his license and resumed his practice. But  that would have been a long, painful, and for a proud man,  humiliating process. And even had he completed a rehabilitation program, he would have been a marked man, suspect and closely monitored. But Turner  avoided exposure and all that might entail by putting  himself beyond the jurisdiction of the Board of Medicine by peremptorily surrendering his license, as indicated in the following excerpt from an old public record I found on the internet:

In surrendering his  Certificate to practice medicine in Ohio, Turner agreed that, “I am no longer permitted to practice medicine and surgery in any form or manner in the State of Ohio.” Further, he  agreed that he could not ever apply for a reinstatement of his certificate, and also that the agreement would become a matter of public record “and may be reported  to appropriate organizations, data banks and governmental bodies.” I obtained a copy of that document not as a result of a search of the internet, as was the case with the document above, but as the result of a public records request to the Medical Board.

When the New York Board for Professional Conduct learned that Turner had surrendered his Ohio Certificate  rather than submit to a disciplinary hearing conducted by the Ohio Board of Medicine, it ordered him to surrender his New York medical license, which he still had in his possession. If Turner hoped to return to New York and resume his career there, the letter below threw cold water on that possibility.

Though the odds were against her, Helen White didn't give up. Her suit dragged on for years when it might have been settled promptly in her favor if Turner had not succeeded in covering up his alcoholism by giving up his medical license. As an employee of SOMC, with a high powered law firm  representing him,  Turner had a couple of aces up his sleeve while White had little influence and even less money. She lived in  an apartment  without a view on the second floor of 416 Chillicothe Street, over a frequently changing, often unoccupied (as it is now)  commercial space.

416 Chillicothe, (2013), where Helen White lived

452 Havenwood Drive, Wheelersburg, which Dr. Turner currently owns and
occupies and which Zillow places a market value of $283,000 on

Giving up his medical career was a high price  for Turner to pay to avoid  public exposure, but his career would have been precarious even if he had achieved sobriety. And giving up his Certificate did not mean he would need  to give up the prestige  and influence of being Dr. Turner or give up putting the letters M.D. after his name, which he would continue to do, somewhat misleadingly, right up to the present time. His name, as I pointed out in a previous post on the Scioto County Counseling Center, is at the top of the list of its members. He lends his  specious, uncertified medical authority to a controversial  organization that he helped co-found, an organization that is in my opinion a drug rehabilitation racket financed largely by the taxpayers. And he continues to live in the big house on a hill in Havenwood Drive in Wheelersburg that, according to the auditor's records, had once belonged to the family of the ex-wife who had  taken out a restraining order against him. So the Board uncertified  Dr. Turner, but he like his buddy Ed Hughes in Sciotoville and Paul Vernier  in West Portsmouth, (click here) live like feudal lords, above us peasants, in  big homes on  hills above the drug-related southern Ohio high crime area they helped create by being a magnet for addicts from the tri-state region.

List of Counseling Center members with "Dr." Turner first and foremost