I believe there are times in our lives where we simply can’t step away from the challenge placed in front of us. I did that in confronting dangerously deficient mental health care of post-combat Marines and Sailors seeking help with PTSD at Camp Lejeune. And due to the ensuing retaliatory career sabotage, I was compelled to do that to challenge the unwarranted interruption of my career. Because I’ve learned that if you don’t challenge these abuses of power, these agencies will continue to harm others with impunity. –Kernan Manion, MD
Advocating for patients — sometimes against difficult, invisible, and powerful forces — is something nurses do every day. Whether we’re speaking up for one patient in danger, a concern about an individual or organizational behavior that is causing harm, or inadequate staffing that impacts all patients, our voices are essential. Sometimes we save lives, and sometimes we’re reprimanded — or worse, we lose our jobs. (See American Nurse Today, When nurses speak up, they pay a price by Leah Curtain, RN, MA, MS, ScD(h), FAAN.)
Physicians also face adversarial powers when advocating for patients. One such doctor is Kernan Manion (quoted above), a psychiatrist with whom I’ve had truly respectful and collaborative conversations about Medical Improv. I want to share his story for two reasons: first, to help spread the word about his battle with the medical system when he spoke up for his active duty military patients, and second, because I believe that when nurses and doctors are working fiercely together on behalf of patients, we make a formidable team!
Here are some highlights of Dr. Manion’s story with links to more detailed information and his fundraising campaign to help continue his fight:
- In 2009, working as a civilian psychiatrist at the Deployment Health Center of a large active duty military base, Dr. Manion raised issues pertaining to critical deficiencies in the mental health care program providing care to service members returning from combat.
- Dr. Manion warned officials at Military Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina that unless they dramatically improved mental health services — and in particular, develop precise, rigorous protocols for handling Marines who might kill themselves or others — there would be deadly consequences.
- He was terminated immediately.
- A year later, one of Manion’s patients, Marine Sgt. Tom Bagosy who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, pulled over on a busy thoroughfare in N.C. shot himself. Minutes later he became another statistic in the steadily escalating suicide rate of the military. (See: A predictable suicide at Camp LeJeune)
- Over the last several years Dr. Manion has pursued his concerns with the N.C. Medical Board, N.C. Physicians Health Program, and N.C.Medical Society, and ultimately the judicial system. He has been subjected to mental health evaluations, deprived of his medical license, and denied his right to due process.
- Now, after a prolonged legal ordeal, his case is being considered by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals while his legal expenses have exhausted his resources. To continue his fight, he has created a (GoFundMe) project which includes much more detail of his story.
How can we help?
There are three ways that we can help this psychiatrist while taking a stand on the importance of comprehensive mental healthcare for our soldiers returning from combat. First, read up on his story; second, consider making a donation to his campaign; and third, share his story with your colleagues.
Nurses are the largest percentage of the healthcare workforce, and a show of our collective power could make a huge difference in this important whistleblower case.