Senate committee to hold hearing on botched abortions, failures of oversight board

LANSING, Mich.—The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to determine why an abortion provider was allowed to continue practicing medicine despite allegations of misconduct made against him and why those allegations were dismissed without investigation.

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker called for the hearing after learning of a blatant conflict of interest on the Michigan Board of Medicine that allowed Dr. Robert Alexander to continue practicing medicine even though he posed a risk to his patients.

“It is appalling to think that this type of dangerous activity was allowed to go on,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “What is more disturbing is that complaints against this doctor were dismissed by a board chairman that had a clear conflict of interest.”

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee said, “Part of the job of the Board of Medicine is to protect Michigan citizens from dishonest doctors. There was a clear failure by the board in this situation.”

Dr. Alexander’s Muskegon clinic was shut down on December 26, 2012 after discarded human tissue, unidentified liquid pooling in buckets, blood splattered in multiple locations, contaminated medical equipment and other violations were discovered that posed a danger to “human life and public welfare,” according to city documents. 

A WOOD TV investigation revealed that, prior to being shut down, Dr. Alexander had allegations filed against him by a physician who also treated his patients, but they were dismissed by the state board of medicine without any action taken. Further investigation revealed that then-chairman of the board, Dr. George Shade Jr., had a longstanding prior relationship with Alexander.

During the 1980s and 90s, Dr. Alexander lost his medical license and spent time in prison. In the mid-1990s, when Alexander applied to have his license reinstated, Dr. Shade advocated on his behalf. Shade also offered to serve as a mentor to Alexander when his license was reinstated. A decade later, as chairman of the board of medicine, Shade had the authority to singlehandedly dismiss the allegations brought against Alexander.

“There needs to be more protection in place at the Board of Medicine for the health and safety of our residents,” said Jones. “This isn’t the first time in this committee that we have seen current policy at the board come up short.”

Schuitmaker added, “One person should not have that kind of power, especially when a friendship between two physicians puts the public’s health in danger. If proper oversight had been in place and the Board of Medicine had actually looked into the allegations, Dr. Alexander would have likely been barred from practicing medicine years ago. Instead, he is somewhere out there today, possibly still practicing.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing will determine why the conflict of interest was allowed to exist and if any changes to the state’s regulatory boards need to be made. Representatives from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which houses the Board of Medicine, will be on hand to testify along with physicians.