Rick Perry May Have Saved a Shoddy Surgeon’s Medical License

Rick Perry May Have Saved a Shoddy Surgeon’s Medical License
Photo by Gage Skidmore

It was in 2010 that Oklahoma medical board officials first came for Steven Anagnost’s medical license.

Over the course of three years the board would investigate allegations the spinal surgeon botched a series of procedures, leaving patients paralyzed, in persistent pain, or dead. During one bungled surgery, Anagnost apparently even implanted a spinal device he was paid to promote. In all, the medical board accused the doctor of violations involving no less than 23 patients.

Anagnost wasn’t just an embattled spinal surgeon. He was also, according to campaign finance records, a donor to Rick Perry’s first failed presidential run, albeit a relatively minor one (just $2,500 in 2011). Still, according to a memo from Oklahoma’s state medical board, unearthed this week by the Tulsa-based investigative news site The Frontier, in 2013 Perry put in a call to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on his donor’s behalf.

It appears that call may have derailed the investigation into Anagnost. According to the memo, written by the executive director of Oklahoma’s medical board, Fallin’s general counsel, Steve Mullins, met with key staff sometime after the call. Mullins told the board, according to that memo, “that he wasn’t here to interfere with the work of the board but Governor Fallin didn’t want any more calls from Rick Perry about this, that Governor Perry said it was a travesty, and what would it take to make it go away.”  

Apparently all it took was that phone call. Shortly thereafter, according to the Dallas Morning News, the state’s medical board agreed to settle with Anagnost—a $10,000 fine, no admission of guilt from the doctor, and the requirement that he seek more training on medical procedures and billing practices. Most importantly, the spinal surgeon got to keep his medical license.

Perry hasn't commented on the matter, and despite what her general counsel apparently told Oklahoma medical board officials 2013, Fallin's office told the DMN this week that Perry was "agnostic" on the outcome of the investigation into Anagnost.

Still, whether or not Perry really wanted Fallin to quash the investigation, the executive director of Oklahoma's medical board, Dr. Eric Frische, thought the message was quite clear. He wrote in his memo: “After Mr. Mullins left, we talked among ourselves and with reluctance we considered our options, realizing that we had been told to try and get rid of the case. … We began to work on an agreement that involved the doctor not agreeing to any guilt.”

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