Van Boven Cleared of Mistreating Patients

Texas Medical Board reluctantly accepts ruling of admin judge

Dr. Robert Van Boven in 2008
Dr. Robert Van Boven in 2008 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

On Friday, Dec. 8, after a brief but tense public meeting followed by an executive session, the Texas Medical Board accepted the Sept. 15 ruling of Administrative Law Judge Hunter Burkhalter that Lakeway neurologist Dr. Robert Van Boven had not committed inappropriate or unprofessional behavior during the treatment of three patients at Lakeway Regional Medical Center in 2014 and 2015. In accepting the judge’s decision – the result of a weeklong May hearing before the state Office of Administrative Hearings – board members expressed doubt about Burkhalter’s ruling, but concluded they should proceed according to the standards previously applied in similar TMB cases.

The board’s decision withdraws a “temporary restriction” on Van Boven’s medical practice that had effectively prevented him from treating patients for more than two years, and in principle allows him to begin rebuilding his reputation. Van Boven told the Chronicle, “Justice has finally prevailed. After three years of unjust punishment without a trial, it is of great relief to finally be exonerated. However, it is obvious that when one shares bad news, the natural reaction is to kill the messenger – and the more salacious the discrediting the better.” (“Judge Clears Van Boven of Mistreating Patients,” Sept. 20.)

Board members rejected the recommendation of staff attorney Chris Palazola that the case had been “wrongly decided” by Burkhalter and that the board should appeal the decision to district court. Board member Frank Denton, making the motion to accept the ruling (which passed 9-1-1), said that while he didn’t agree with the decision, he believed the board was obligated to accept it. Following the vote, board President Sherif Zaafran also criticized the judge’s decision.

The ruling is unlikely to end the matter, either for Van Boven or the TMB. Van Boven has filed a lawsuit against the board for denial of due process and other claims. And last week, state Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) accused the TMB staff of “a long history of a denial of due process, violations of the state Constitution, and state law.” Zedler said he would be filing complaints with the public integrity unit of the Texas Rangers and with the State Bar.

At press time, the TMB had not responded to requests for comment on Zedler’s charges.

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