Neurosurgeon and Longview native Johnny Delashaw Friday sued five Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commission members Friday for their actions relating suspension of his medical license in 2017.
Delashaw’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, alleges the defendants violated his constitutional rights, interfered with his expectancy to be able to practice neurosurgery and defamed him.
The suit targets Commission Chair Alden Roberts, Executive Director Melanie deLeon, Deputy Executive Director Micah Matthews, investigator Stephen Correa and staff attorney Gordon Wright. They could not be reached for comment Friday.
The complaint states the investigation presented to a commission panel in October 2016 was “misleading and one-sided.” The panel suggested a restriction of Delashaw’s ability to practice but no action was taken at the time. “Media and political pressure” encouraged the defendants to reopen the case against Delashaw in early 2017, the complaint states.
The Seattle Times published a series of stories in February 2017 raising questions about patient care under Delashaw’s leadership at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute.
The medical commission summarily suspended Delashaw’s license in May 2017, two months after he resigned as chairman of the SNI. The three-member panel determined Delashaw posed “an immediate threat to public health and safety,” basing its decision largely on accusations of disruptive behavior toward nurses in 2015.
A summary suspension happens before a full hearing on the matter, and the complaint states that addressing an alleged disruptive physician’s behavior this way was “unprecedented” in the commission’s history.
Delashaw was not practicing at the time of the order. He denied the allegations and appealed the suspension. The commission reinstated Delashaw’s license on July 5 after a nine-day hearing that concluded May 4.
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The Medical Quality Assurance Commission is a governor-appointed, 13-member board that licenses medical professionals by establishing and enforcing qualifications and standards for practice.
The commission’s policy on disruptive practitioners says the behavior is best addressed by the employer. Delashaw’s complaint states that defendants knew his employer had evaluated his behavior, implemented measures to address the complaints and concluded he could practice safely.
“Defendants singled out Dr. Delashaw for uniquely adverse treatment, despite their knowledge that he was not an immediate threat to public safety, in order to deflect media and legislative criticism of the Commission and avoid detrimental action by the Legislature, Governor, or Department of Health,” the suit states.
The doctor told The Daily News in September the suspension of his license has “pretty much destroyed” him. Delashaw said he couldn’t find a job and wasn’t sure if he ever will.
Delashaw wouldn’t comment on Friday’s lawsuit.
If the defendants had not imposed the summary suspension, Delashaw would not have suffered the “enormous reputational, financial and emotional harm,” the complaint states. The suit requests actual and punitive damages, reimbursement for legal costs and demands trial by jury for qualifying issues. It does not name an amount.
Delashaw’s libel and defamation lawsuit against the Seattle Times and Dr. Charles Cobbs, a former Swedish colleague, is ongoing.