The Government vs. Your Doctor: A True Story
By Cristina Rizza, MD
March 22, 2004
Like many doctors in today’s medical profession, I am the victim
of a violation of individual rights. While I continue to practice
medicine, many others do not. Personally, I can testify: the assault
on doctors is real, it matters, and it is getting much worse.
I chose to become an American citizen in 1981, though I had been
licensed to practice medicine in the U.S. since 1976. My record as a
doctor is exemplary. Yet, for over one year, the state treated me
unjustly and without causeas a criminal.
The harassment began last February, when I received a warning
from the Medical Board of California: I was under investigation. The
letter stated that treatment I had provided at a Veterans
Administration (VA) hospital in 1999 was suspect. The document
warned that I should schedule what was referred to as an interview.
I contacted the Board’s District office, which was unwilling to
provide information about the accusation, investigation, process,
punishment, or my professional standing. An official explained that
I was prohibited from obtaining the office’s pertinent records.
While I could examine the case file, making copies was forbidden.
Facing an unknown threat, I promptly cancelled patient
appointments and visited the office where, under armed watch, I
reviewed the colossal volume of records. Finding few clinical notes
reflecting my treatment, it was impossible to discern the grounds
for an investigation, let alone a coherent accusation. Sorting the
mountain of papers only begged the question: why was I under
Deprived of freedom of information, I contacted the VA hospital’s
lawyer. Since I had completed my training at the government-run VA
hospital, regulations made records unavailable to me. The lawyer
promised I would be notified when the hospital learned about the
case. I never heard from them again.
I hired a lawyer, who tried without success to obtain records.
Desperate to understand an investigation that could ruin my career,
I visited the VA hospital, persuaded an employee to help, and I
finally found copies of my notes regarding the patient who was the
subject of the government’s case.
I had been reduced to pleading; I was forced to act as if I were
Months later, I was interrogated in the presence of an armed law
enforcement officer. During the proceeding, I learned the real
nature of the case; my name was marginally associated with the
Board’s actions and I was not the doctor being investigated. The
government still refused to decide my fate at this meeting. I would
have to wait five months, when the Medical Board of California
finally wrote a letter ominously stating: “no further action was
anticipated.” Hardly at ease, I was nevertheless relieved and I was
tempted to put the ordeal out of my mind.
Then, I remembered why I came to America.
I chose to become an American citizen because this is the only
nation based upon individual rights. I chose to become an American
because, in America, one is free to choose, practice and earn a
livelihood. I chose to be an American because each person is endowed
with certain inalienable individual rightsthe right to life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Yet, my rights were fundamentally violated. My life was held in
jeopardy each time I faced a gun. My liberty was restricted each
time I was refused information, publicly accused of a crime the
state refused to name, denied an opportunity to face my accuser in a
speedy hearing, and prevented from defending my rights.
For one yearthe longest year of my lifeI wondered whether
my livelihood would be eliminated by the state. I faced each patient
not knowing whether, let alone why, I would be stripped of the right
to practice medicine. I faced arbitrary standards, random rules and
the constant threat of force.
I am not alone. There is an equivalent of the California Medical
BoardMedicare, Medicaid, endless bureaucraciesspread across
America and they routinely subject doctors and medical professionals
to such persecution.
I love practicing medicine. I also love my freedom, which makes
my work possible. I should not be forced to choose between them.
During the last year, government control of medicine stripped me of
individual rightswhich is why government intrusion in health
care is the biggest threat to every American’s individual
There is only one solution: speak out against more government
intervention in health care and defend the right to your life as if
it is an emergencybecause, as I know, it is.
Cristina Rizza, MD, is a practicing cardiologist in southern
California. Dr. Rizza serves on the board of directors of the
nonprofit educational organization Americans for Free Choice in
Copyright © 2004 Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. All rights reserved.
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