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Dr. Morgan Fights For His Career

-- On Dec. 1, the Indiana Medical Licensing Board began its hearings on whether to revoke Dr. Morgan's license.

"I have some hopes that maybe they'll have to listen, and people will understand I'm not a bad doctor," Morgan said before the hearings began.

Deputy Attorney General Beth Compton argued that Morgan had botched the deliveries of nine women.

Morgan's fate lay in the hands of four members of the Indiana Medical Licensing Board. Three members are doctors, though none is an obstetrician. The state intended to convince them not just that Dr. Morgan made mistakes, but that he consistently practiced medicine in a way that endangered his patients.

With the panel acting as judge and jury, Compton began with her strongest witness, Lori Rollins, who told the jury what happened the night of her delivery.

The state's expert, obstetrician James Nocon, told the board that Morgan had no excuses. "At 4:30 in the morning, with a patient who has a prior C section, is being augmented with oxytocin, with ruptured membranes, there isn't any other patient in this doctor's practice who's going to need him," Nocon said. "He should be in the hospital with this patient," Nocon added. "That's what the average competent doctor would do."

Another woman, Renee Smith, also testified about her experience with Morgan. She said that he had taken far too long to arrive at the hospital. Her baby was born brain-damaged and deaf. Again Nocon argued that Morgan had no excuses.

Nurses who worked with Morgan also claimed that he was missing in action. "They would call on the pager and say, 'Dr. Morgan, I need you to come for a delivery,'" nurse Barbara Russell testified during the hearing. "You never heard anything. You didn't know if he got the page. He didn't call you from the car and say, 'I'm on my way.'" Morgan vehemently denied this, saying he responded promptly.

Then Dr. Morgan testified. After waiting for two years, the Rollins finally heard his explanation about what happened the night Lori Rollins gave birth.

The doctor says he was at home getting frequent updates from the nurses. When the situation turned dangerous, he came in. But he says the nurses hadn't followed his directions on how to get Lori Rollins ready for surgery, costing him valuable time. He also said that he had to wait to be given permission to operate.

But Deputy Attorney General Compton blamed Morgan, saying that he kept the nurses waiting. She said that he is too unstable to practice. Under questioning from his own attorney, George Purdy, Morgan admitted that he is depressed but blamed it on his situation.

Morgan argued that because he tried whenever possible to have a natural childbirth, he was resented by some nurses. Some wanted to give more pain medication than he allowed. That doesn't make him cruel, only prudent, he said.

The doctor wanted the board to examine his voluminous statistics, which he said prove his record is at least as goo if not better than that of the average doctor. But the board refused to consider these claims, saying that numbers are irrelevant to the cases at hand.

In the end, two very different pictures of Morgan emerged. "In my eyes, I've done nothing wrong from a medical standpoint other than be different," Morgan said.

"I have no doubt that when Dr. Morgan began his career he was a bright and caring and committed physician," Compton said. "Somewhere along the line, something got in the way."

On February 24, the board made its decision. The panel voted 3 to 1 to revoke Morgan's medical license, the harshest penalty it could impose.

"The whole situation is unfortunate and tragic," said one of the board members. "My answer is, 'What a waste!' I feel that everything that I've seen is uncorrectable at this point in time, and I would vote to revoke his license."

After the board vote, Lori Rollins hugged Compton. But even in victory, she thought of her son Robbie.

The decision eemed to bewilder the deeply disappointed Morgan, who will probably never deliver another baby: "I'm not sure that I quite understand that if you get good results, why does that make you not able to continue to practice?" he asked.

"The hardest part for me is going to be the fact that as of today I won't be able to take care of my patients," he said after the decision. "I have learned through all of this how important that's been to me and how much my patients mean. I don't know what I'm going to do."

Morgan plans to appeal. But the Indiana board's decision has never been overturned in past appeals.

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