The Medical Board of California publicly reprimanded a local emergency room doctor last week for negligent acts committed several years ago.
In 2006, Dr. Thomas Elgin was the attending emergency room doctor at Orange Coast Memorial Hospital when a 48-year-old man was admitted with chest pain, arm numbness and nausea.
At the time Dr. Elgin interpreted the patient's EKG as normal, but during an interview with the medical board in 2009, he said he recognized that it was actually abnormal, court documents say.
During that same interview, Elgin told the board that the patient--who died later that day--wanted to leave the hospital and refused to be admitted for further work. Elgin didn't document the patient's refusal at the time, however, court documents show.
Elgin's attorney Raymond McMahon stressed that his client received the lowest level of discipline the medical board hands out--a public reprimand.
"This is the lowest level and it's typically given for a very minor deviation," McMahon says.
"In Dr. Elgin's case it was because he did not document in the record that the patient was going against medical advice."
McMahon added: "Dr. Elgin is a very dedicated doctor and this is a very minor issue."
"It is a lesser form of discipline, but it's still a form a discipline," says Chris Valine, an analyst with the medical board.
In the section of the court document labeled "culpability," Elgin doesn't admit to any actual wrongdoing, but rather acknowledges that that the medical board "could" have established a case against him. Aside from the public reprimand, the board also required Elgin to enroll in--and pay for--a course in medical records keeping.