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Nursing board dismisses midwife complaint

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state nursing board has thrown out a complaint that a local physician and anti-abortion advocate made about a nurse-midwife.

The West Virginia Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses will not take action against Angelita Nixon, a Putnam County nurse-midwife, board director Laura Rhodes wrote in a letter to Nixon.

Dr. Byron Calhoun originally wrote about Nixon to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. The Nursing Board, not the attorney general's office, typically handles complaints against nurses.

Frank Hartman, an attorney for Nixon, said he is pleased, but not surprised that the board threw out Calhoun's compliant.

"Now that my client has been completely vindicated, we are planning our next steps," Hartman wrote in an email. "Dr. Calhoun's letter to the attorney general was malicious and contained information he knew, or should have known, to be false. Those false statements have damaged the reputation of my client. We intend to right that wrong."

Calhoun, in a letter to Morrisey dated June 27, said that the state should consider criminal charges against Nixon and that her license should be revoked.

In the complaint about Nixon, Calhoun wrote, among others things, that the midwife was not able to care for her patient at home and had no backup physician in the case of emergency.

Nixon's patient, Sarah Brown, refuted those allegations and said she and her husband are thrilled that the complaint was dismissed.

"The Board of Nursing did a thorough investigation and came to the conclusion that Angy provided excellent care -- the same conclusion that we already knew, and the one that Dr. Calhoun would have reached if he had consulted with Angy or me about my care, or taken the time to review my medical record," Brown wrote in an email.

Brown argued Calhoun's letter to Morrisey was an extension of what she perceives to be Calhoun's attack on women's rights.

Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of reproductive rights group WV Free, agreed.

"I don't know Dr. Calhoun, but it seems a pattern has developed here," she told the Gazette previously. "[Calhoun has] a very rigid perspective about what women's health care should and shouldn't be. If another health-care provider's approach is outside what his rigid idea of medicine is, he attacks it."

Calhoun, the vice chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at West Virginia University-Charleston, is also the national medical advisor for the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, an anti-abortion group.

Calhoun gave an expert statement in a recent malpractice lawsuit against a Charleston doctor who performs abortions. Itai Gravely has sued Dr. Rodney Stephens, alleging he botched her abortion and left part of a fetus in her uterus. The lawsuit is the basis of a call for more regulations in the state's two abortion clinics.

It is unclear whether Morrisey's office passed the complaint against Nixon along to the Nursing Board or whether Calhoun sent a second letter.

Morrisey's spokeswoman, Beth Ryan, did not return a message seeking clarification.

Nixon has had one other complaint against her license, Hartman said. That complaint, also made by a hospital employee, was dismissed.

An email and a message left for Calhoun were not returned. Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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