Paper seeks redacted details from Vt. medical board

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Burlington Free Press reporter Adam Silverman writes that his newspaper is seeking the release of certain details redacted from a medical board inquiry into what he calls “allegations that a Vermont doctor engaged in conduct that might have exposed the public to harm” related to a lawsuit filed by a former board director alleging that he was forced to resign his post in 2010 after authorizing two inquiries despite objections from state health officials.

The missing information includes the exact nature of two doctors’ “official” positions with the State of Vermont, as well as the dates of the cases in question. Silverman found that the attorney who filed the suit blacked out the information from the public version because he “didn’t want to risk improperly disclosing details of Medical Practice Board cases before the state became involved in defending the lawsuit.”

In court Monday, Assistant Attorney General David Groff told Toor that judges often have to balance the public’s right to know against competing private interests — in this case, that of doctors whose good names could be besmirched by “spurious” accusations. For the Wargo lawsuit, though, Groff added, state lawmakers already have charted the course: Information about Medical Practice Board inquiries becomes public only if an investigation results in formal accusations. Here, the investigation is ongoing, he said.

No one argued for releasing the records at Monday’s hearing, but the Free Press has written in letters to the court that the material should be unsealed because “there is an inherent public interest” in learning about a possible threat of harm to the public.

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