Houston Judge Changes Course, Says DOs Can File Commitment Papers

Physicians across Texas are breathing a sigh of relief — at least for now — thanks to Harris County Probate Judge Rory Olsen's decision to allow doctors of osteopathy (DOs) to file Certificates of Medical Examinations needed for mental health commitments. TMA and a host of other physician organizations have been fighting the judge's initial ruling, which prohibited DOs from signing the commitment papers.

Responding to a request from a leading Houston psychiatrist who is also a DO, TMA's legal staff initially contacted Judge Olsen via telephone. TMA, the Harris County Medical Society, Texas Osteopathic Medical Association, the Federation of Texas Psychiatry, and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) then wrote a joint letter to Judge Olsen explaining the legal equivalence in Texas of allopathic and osteopathic physicians. "Eliminating DOs' authority in the most populous county in Texas could have disastrous consequences for the health and safety of persons who physicians have determined need protective psychiatric care," they wrote.

Lawyers for the AOA and the Texas Medical Board also sent Judge Olsen detailed legal briefs on the issue.

The judge's controversial decision prompted Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), to take action. "As a physician, I find Judge Olsen's attempt to singlehandedly redefine the practice of medicine both reckless and profoundly misguided," he said as he asked Attorney General Ken Paxton to issue a formal opinion to affirm that MDs and DOs enjoy the same legal rights. 

The next day, Judge Olsen announced he would accept commitment requests signed by DOs, pending a decision from General Paxton. "Judge Olsen made the correct decision," said TMA President Don Read, MD. "Physicians and the patients we serve appreciate the intervention of Senator Schwertner and are confident General Paxton also will reach the correct decision."

"The simple fact is, Judge Olsen doesn't have the authority to decide which physicians he does or does not want to listen to," Senator Schwertner said. "Regardless of this man's opinion, the law governing the practice of medicine is exceedingly clear: DOs — just like MDs — are fully-trained, licensed, and accredited physicians with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. Period."

Action, Oct. 14, 2016 

Last Updated On

October 14, 2016

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