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?

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The Trump Phenomenon

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Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 


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.


Riaz Haq said...

Dr. Esther Ngare

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


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.


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.”


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.

Riaz Haq said...

Thar cultural festival concludes with series of colorful events


MITHI - Thar cultural festival concluded on Sunday with a series of colorful events at Marvi ground. According to details, the festival was organised by district administration in collaboration with Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), Thar Foundation, Hubco, Sino Sindh Resources, Shanghai Electric and a number of other organisations. Member National Assembly (MNA) Dr Mahesh Kumar Malani, MPA Qasim Siraj Soomro addressing festival said that Tharparkar, which was an icon of religious harmony, possesses a unique identity in Pakistan as well as in the entire world. They said the purpose of organising the Thar festival was to highlight Thar culture in the entire world. They said that the Sindh government was making efforts to bring prosperity to the deserted area. They stressed the need for bringing development in Thar by encouraging public private partnership because Sindh engro coal mining company is precedent in this regard while Shanghai Company was also working in Thar Coal block which helped regarding development in the district. They said that Thar festival has become part of Tharparkar and such events would also organise next year. DC Tharparkar Muhammad Nawaz Soho on the occasion expressed gratitude to all participants for attending cultural event and eulogised support and cooperation of district administration for organising cultural festival in befitting manner.

Riaz Haq said...

Dr. Hasan Gokal, a #Pakistani #American doctor in #Texas, was fired after doling out expiring #vaccine doses. Now, he’s suing Harris County Public Health Dept over wrongful termination. #COVID19 #Pandemic #Racism #Islamophobia https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/09/22/hasan-gokal-texas-vaccine-lawsuit/?tid=ss_tw

The doctor believed he was doing the right thing after Jennifer Shuford, chief epidemiologist with the Texas Department of State Health Services, warned physicians not to waste the shots and said it was even acceptable to give leftover doses to ineligible people if the vaccines would otherwise expire.

But on Jan. 7, Harris County Public Health fired Gokal for doling out the shots. Officials within the county health department then shared false information with the local district attorney’s office, Gokal said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday, spurring prosecutors to bring criminal charges against Gokal for allegedly stealing vaccine vials and giving shots to friends and family. That month, he was charged with theft by a public servant, a misdemeanor that was ultimately dismissed.

Gokal is suing Harris County Public Health for wrongfully firing him, orchestrating a “misinformation campaign” aimed at stripping him of his medical license, and discriminating against the doctor based on his race and national origin. Harris County Public Health did not immediately return a request for comment from The Washington Post early Wednesday.

The termination and subsequent efforts to pursue criminal charges against Gokal left him struggling to find a new job in public health, he said.

“If you Google my name, you’ll see ‘doctor theft,’ ‘doctor theft,’ so on and so forth,” Gokal told KTRK on Tuesday.

According to the lawsuit, a human resources director allegedly told the doctor that he “did not ‘equitably’ distribute the vaccine and gave the vaccine to too many individuals with ‘Indian’ sounding names.” Gokal’s attorney told KTRK that the 10 individuals Gokal was able to reach before the vaccine expired “happen to be South Asian.” Gokal, who is from Pakistan, sought out at-risk patients “without race in mind,” according to the suit. Instead, it adds, he tried to ensure that the extra doses went to people who were particularly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus because of underlying health conditions.

The lawsuit said that Harris County Public Health did not properly investigate the allegations made against Gokal. The department “never interviewed Dr. Gokal, never took his statement, never asked for his side of the story, conducted no internal investigation of the matter, and never sought to get the facts straight,” the lawsuit states.

Riaz Haq said...

As of 2016, there were 12,454 Pakistani doctors and 45,830 Indian doctors out of 215,630 total in the United States.


India 45,830

Pakistan 12,454

Grenada 10,789

Philipines 10,217

Dominica 9,974

Mexico 9,923

Canada 7,765

Dominican Republic 6,269

China 5,772

UAE 4,635

Egypt 4,379


Total Foreign Doctors in UK 66,211

India 18,953

Pakistan 8,026

Nigeria 4,880

Egypt 4,471

Foreign Doctors in Canada 25,400:

South Africa 2,604

India 2,127

Ireland 1,942

UK 1,923

US 1,263

Pakistan 1,087