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Report Criticizes Ohio Prison Doctor Who Resigned

by David M. Reutter

An August 2011 performance report by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) found that a prison doctor failed to properly follow-up with his patients, and improperly discontinued medications and treatment without meeting with patients. The review that led to the report was spurred by a prisoner’s suicide.

The report examined the performance of Dr. Myron Shank, who served as the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at the Allen Correctional Institution (ACI) from July 6, 2010 until his resignation on June 20, 2011. After Dr. Shank assumed the position of CMO, the number of medical grievances filed by prisoners exploded. In the year prior to his taking that position, 57 medical complaints were filed at ACI. During Dr. Shank’s brief tenure as CMO, 131 grievances were filed.

The majority of those complaints concerned diagnosis and treatment. Grievances claiming improper or inadequate medical care, or delay or denial of medication, increased by 25% and 24% respectively. Grievances that disagreed with a diagnosis or treatment increased 17%, while complaints regarding access to or delay in receiving medical care jumped by 12%.

During his tenure, Dr. Shank was called in for corrective meetings with ODRC supervisors on six occasions in a five-month period. The report identified the following issues with his performance: 1) appropriate follow-up with patients following specialty consultations; 2) complete and timely documentation in patients’ interdisciplinary notes; 3) proper follow-up with patients after emergency room visits; 4) review of lab work; 5) discontinuation of medication and treatment without first meeting with patients and discussing options; and 6) lack of teamwork.

“Dr. Shank’s propensity to discontinue and/or change medication or treatment without effective communication and patient education was problematic in a correctional setting and inconsistent with ODRC medical policy,” concluded the report’s author, ACI Warden Assistant Dean McCombs.

Dr. Shank’s deficiencies were definitely problematic for state prisoner Gregory Stamper. According to the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, Stamper was in severe pain due to damage to his nervous system, but Dr. Shank took him off his Neurontin pain medication. Stamper, 61, committed suicide on June 1, 2011.

The Ohio Justice and Policy Center was about to file a lawsuit on Stamper’s behalf at the time he killed himself. “Unfortunately, this report, and Dr. Shank’s resignation, cannot bring back Mr. Stamper,” said the Center’s executive director, David Singleton.

Shank was placed on administrative leave during a review into Stamper’s suicide, and resigned while that investigation was pending.

Dr. Shank has had other problems beyond his resignation from the ODRC. The State Medical Board of Ohio notified him in January 2011 of charges of improperly prescribing pain medication in his private practice. The Board cited inappropriate and excessive narcotics prescriptions that he had written for patients, including failing to recognize patients who were doctor-shopping for drugs and traveling long distances to get them. It also said his medical charts were unprofessional and sometimes illegible.

On December 14, 2011, the State Medical Board found “serious deficiencies in Dr. Shank’s prescribing practices and care rendered to patients but believes that he is amenable to additional training in order to improve his practice in the future.” The Board suspended his certificate to practice medicine and surgery for 90 days, though the suspension was stayed during a probationary period that included various requirements, such as taking courses in professional ethics, prescribing controlled substances and medical records. Dr. Shank has appealed the Board’s ruling. See: In the Matter of Myron Lyle Shank, M.D., State Medical Board of Ohio, Case No. 11-CRF-005.

Sources: Associated Press;;; ODRC Performance Report - Dr. Myron Shank, Chief Medical Officer - Allen Correctional Institution (August 9, 2011)

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Related legal case

In the Matter of Myron Lyle Shank, M.D.