Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Pakistani-American Doctor Fired For Giving Away Expiring COVID19 Vaccine

Dr. Hasan Gokal, Pakistani-American medical director of Harris County COVID Response Team, has been charged with stealing COVID19 Moderna vaccine and fired from his job, according to media reports.  Dr. Gokal's "crime" is to give away unused coronavirus vaccine doses that would have expired and lost if not used within hours. A Texas judge has dismissed charges against him. 

Dr. Hasan Gokal

Each vial of Moderna vaccine has 10 doses. Once it is punctured, the vaccine expires within 6 hours. After administering COVID19 vaccine to all the front-line healthcare workers who showed up for their appointment, Gokal gave the remaining expiring doses of the vaccine to acquaintances and strangers, including a bed-bound woman in her 90s, a woman in her 80s with dementia, several men and women in their 60s and 70s with health issues, and a mother with a child on a ventilator, according to New York Times. After midnight and just minutes before the vial would expire, the final person called and said he wouldn’t make it. Gokal turned to his wife, who has a pulmonary disease that causes shortness of breath, and gave her the last dose.

Even after dismissal of charges against him, Dr. Gokal still doesn’t have a job and instead volunteers at a nonprofit health clinic. Now his lawyer is pursuing a wrongful termination lawsuit, according to ABC Channel13. “An apology by Harris County Public Health and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office towards Dr. Gokal and his family will not be enough,” Paul Doyle, Gokal’s lawyer, told the news outlet.

Dr. Gokal is among thousands of Pakistani-American doctors who have been at the forefront of saving lives in the middle of the devastating COVID19 pandemic that has taken over 400,000 American lives so far. Among them is Dr. Syra MadadPakistani-American head of New York City’s Health and Hospitals System-wide Special Pathogens Program, who is featured in a 6-part Netflix documentary series "Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak".

Pakistani-American doctors are the 3rd largest among foreign-educated doctors in America. Among the notable names of Pakistani-American doctors engaged in the fight against Covid-19 are: Dr. Saud Anwar in Connecticut, Dr. Gul Zaidi in New York and Dr. Umair Shah in Texas. Their work has received positive media coverage in recent weeks.

Dr. Saud Anwar, a Connecticut pulmonologist and state senator, came up with a ventilator splitter to deal with the shortages of life-saving equipment. Dr. Gul Zaidi, an acute-care pulmonologist in Long Island, was featured in a CBS 60 Minutes segment on how the doctors are dealing with unprecedented demands to save lives. Dr. Umair Shah was interviewed about his work by ABC TV affiliate in Houston, Texas.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Ex US Treasury Sec Praises Pakistan's COVID Response

Pakistani-American Health Expert Featured in Netflix Documentary "Pandemic"

Pakistan is the 3rd Largest Source of Foreign Doctors in America

Van Jones on "Geniuses from Pakistan"

Obama Honors Pakistani-American Doctor With Top Technology Medal

Hindus and Muslim Well-educated in America But Least Educated Worldwide

What's Driving Islamophobia in America?

Pakistani-Americans Largest Foreign-Born Muslim Group in Silicon Valley

The Trump Phenomenon

Islamophobia in America

Silicon Valley Pakistani-Americans

Pakistani-American Leads Silicon Valley's Top Incubator

Silicon Valley Pakistanis Enabling 2nd Machine Revolution

Karachi-born Triple Oscar Winning Graphics Artist

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fire-eye Goes Public

Two Pakistani-American Silicon Valley Techs Among Top 5 VC Deals

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 


4 comments:

Syed N. said...

Why would the prosecution seek a grand-jury indictment after the charge was thrown out? I am not a lawyer, but that seems odd to me.

Riaz Haq said...

Judge Franklin Bynum dismissed the case against Dr. Gokal for lack of probable cause.

“In the number of words usually taken to describe an allegation of retail shoplifting, the State attempts, for the first time, to criminalize a doctor’s documented administration of vaccine doses during a public health emergency,” he wrote. “The Court emphatically rejects this attempted imposition of the criminal law on the professional decisions of a physician.”

Both the Texas Medical Association and the Harris County Medical Society recently issued a statement of support for physicians like Gokal who find themselves scrambling “to avoid wasting the vaccine in a punctured vial.”

“It is difficult to understand any justification for charging any well-intentioned physician in this situation with a criminal offense,” the statement said.

https://www.baltimoresun.com/coronavirus/ct-aud-nw-nyt-doctor-fired-for-using-vaccine-20210211-x6yzgl2ei5dq3akzu57xe76wde-story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Dr. Esther Ngare
@NgareMD


The only reason this case is still going on is the racial bias but both Harris county public health ( Mrz Anderson’s words.... “too many Indian names”, and the DA Kim Ogg who should have more pressing issues to attend to than try to prosecute a doctor who did what is right


https://twitter.com/NgareMD/status/1362085548752576517?s=20

Riaz Haq said...

Dr. Gokal's case does raise serious questions of prosecutorial misconduct and #racism. Judge Bynum’s scathing order has set up #Pakistani-#American Dr for a potentially strong civil lawsuit against Harris County for malicious prosecution under #Texas law. https://lawandcrime.com/legal-analysis/texas-doctor-wrongly-charged-for-giving-extra-vaccine-to-sick-and-elderly-may-have-a-case-for-malicious-prosecution/

The judge continued, picking apart the affidavit prosecutors used to charge Gokal:

The affidavit describes County procedures as forbidding “personal use” of the vaccine, but then fails to describe what “personal use” is under those procedures. The affidavit claims the defendant administered doses to several people who “may have” been offsite and that he documented those doses as required by the procedures of Harris County Public Health.

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The tale of Dr. Hasan Gokal seems too outrageous to be true: a doctor gave 10 leftover doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals with serious health conditions rather than throw those doses in the trash. (The doses “would expire within hours,” the Times explained; rather than allow the scarce and precious treatments to go to waste, the doctor acted.)

Various officials and criminal prosecutors weren’t happy.

When the doctor explained how he’d found patients in need of vaccination, officials — apparently with Harris County Public Health — told him that there’d been too many Indian names on the list.

Dr. Gokal was then criminally prosecuted, fired from his public health job, and subjected to public disgrace.

Additional facts as reported by the New York Times do little to color Gokal’s prosecution as reasonable.

Dr. Gokal had been supervising a vaccination event in late December in the Houston suburb of Humble, Texas. The event was the first of its kind and had been minimally publicized, which lead to 10 vaccine dose vials being opened without recipients immediately available. In an effort to ensure the vaccine wasn’t wasted, Gokal checked with workers at the event to see if they needed vaccinations. They didn’t. He called a Harris County public health official to inform them about the soon-expiring doses and explained he’d be looking for recipients. The official said, “OK.”

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Further, the court noted, “the affidavit is riddled with sloppiness and errors,” and “The credibility and reliability of the statements in the affidavit are never established by the unidentified affiant.”

Judge Bynum’s scathing order did more for the doctor than simply ending his criminal case: it set up Gokal for a potentially strong civil lawsuit against Harris County for malicious prosecution. Under Texas law, a person whose criminal prosecution has been dismissed for lack of probable cause can hold the prosecutor civilly liable for malicious prosecution if that person can prove the charges (1) were filed with malice, and (2) that they — the plaintiff — suffered “special damages.”

Gokal, who has now lost his job and incurred legal expenses, will have no trouble proving the element of special damages. The term “special” distinguishes direct out-of-pocket damages from less quantifiable ones like pain and suffering.

Under the leading Texas case regarding “malice” for purposes of malicious prosecution, “malice” is defined as “ill will or evil motive, or such gross indifference or reckless disregard for the rights of others as to amount to a knowing, unreasonable, wanton, and willful act.” As the Texas Supreme Court has explained, malice does not require personal spite or ill will; rather, it is enough if the defendant prosecutor acted with reckless disregard to a victim’s rights and with indifference as to resulting injury.