Connecting state and local government leaders
A Maryland delegate who is also a plastic surgeon participated in two legislative meetings while operating, an oversight board found.
A Maryland lawmaker who is a plastic surgeon was fined and reprimanded by the state Board of Physicians for logging onto two remote legislative meetings from the operating room.
State Del. Terri Hill, a Democrat from Howard County, will pay a $15,000 fine for engaging in “unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine,” according to the ruling from the board, a regulatory body that licenses and disciplines physicians and other care providers in Maryland.
The Maryland General Assembly began holding committee hearings remotely at the beginning of the 2021 session due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, allowing legislators and members of the public to participate remotely.
Officials were tipped off that Hill had participated in two of those sessions via a March 23 complaint triggered by an article in the Baltimore Sun. In a disciplinary hearing, Hill admitted to the board that she had attended two remote legislative sessions during surgeries—one meeting in February where she gave testimony on a bill “for less than three minutes” and another in March, where her participation was “limited to listening to the discussion” for roughly an hour, according to the board’s ruling.
In both cases, Hill said, the patients gave consent for her to call into the meetings. But in interviews with the board, only one patient remembered doing so. The other had no recollection of being asked for permission and said Hill’s multi-tasking struck her as “a little discomforting,” the ruling said.
Other medical personnel present in both surgeries, including a certified nursing assistant, a physician’s assistant and a nurse, told board members they were either uncomfortable with Hill’s conduct or had never seen a surgeon step away from an operation to conduct business or accept a phone call.
In the second surgery, the ruling said, Hill was clearly visible in the legislative meeting “under the surgical lights, focused downward, and would occasionally shift, reach for surgical instruments, or adjust the lights.”
Hill and “other operating room staff occasionally moved surgical equipment and blood-stained towels so that they were briefly visible on the video feed,” the report continued.
Many state lawmakers across the country balance their legislative duties with full-time jobs. The National Conference of State Legislatures classifies the Maryland General Assembly as a “hybrid” model of government, meaning lawmakers there make more money than their counterparts in other states but “usually not enough to allow them to make a living without having other sources of income.”
Balancing her medical work and legislative responsibilities was a struggle during the pandemic, Hill told the Associated Press.
“I accept the Board’s decision that I could have done better,” she said.
Hill must pay the fine by Oct. 19, 2022.
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.