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OPINION: GBME should go after bad doctors, not Akimoto's free speech rights

By David Lubofsky

Right from the get-go, let me say what Dr. [Vincent] Akimoto said about Dr. [Janna] Manglona was wrong, very upsetting, and inappropriate, not to mention arrogant. This is the same arrogance and apathy that we in the community as health care consumers face by many providers who think they have a right, with no accountability, to do or say anything they want, even if a patient dies.

Putting this aside, what is a concern for me is how the Guam Board of Medical Examiners, Chaired by Nathaniel Berg handled the complaint against Dr. Akimoto regarding his acting out against Dr. Manglona. They are making such a big issue out of this, but the issue is not about patient safety or medical standards of care, the Board’s mission.

The issue is a First Amendment issue and the right of Dr. Akimoto, whether we agree or not, to say what he did. The Board was told this by their own legal counsel, Rob Weinberg, back in October that Akimoto was protected by the first amendment, but Berg and the Board needed to show who is really in charge by overreaching in their area of responsibility. Never have they gone after a doctor like this, even in real situations where doctors medically negligently hurt or killed someone. Think about that, NEVER EVER have they chased down a doctor who injured or killed someone as much as they are chasing Dr. Akimoto. This alone should tell you how much protection, or lack thereof, that we have with the Guam Board of Medical Examiners.

So, simply put, the issue is about Dr. Akimoto not responding to the Medical Board who was told by their own lawyer that its Dr. Akimoto’s first amendment right to say what he wants and what he said was protected speech. What authority does Berg and the Board have?

All of this from a Board with major conflicts of interest, Chaired by Nathaniel Berg that refuses to do investigations of doctor complaints properly and impartially or to mitigate their own conflicts of interest. They are now getting all upset as Akimoto will not respond to a non-medical issue or even a Board governed issue, per legal counsel Rob Weinberg, who again said Dr. Akimoto was within his first amendment rights.

This is the meeting of the elitist medical arrogance. “How dare he not respond,” the Board feels. Akimoto, with his own charm, probably thinks they do not have authority so why be bullied by them, and he in fact appears to be correct.

Its amazing that this issue gets more time than a dead child or the other 25 complaints that this Board has had over the last 3 years that have never, not once been decided for patients. Instead, they chase Dr. Akimoto to show that they are doing something for the community. Hey Dr. Berg, you and the Board have no power over Akimoto. He has not violated the Medical Practice Act. He is within his rights. Get back to protecting us, ahh, try to appear that way anyway.

What bothers me, speaking of free speech, which the Board does not have in their professional Board meetings, as they are supposed to not identify individuals with complaints against them is that they violated Dr. Akimoto’s rights to privacy, then trashed him publicly. What the Guam Board of Medical Examiners said about Dr. Akimoto in a public broadcasted meeting in October was very inappropriate. They should have had the meeting in closed session. As stated, they were first advised that Dr. Akimoto is protected by free speech, but that did not stop them. During the meeting we heard Dr. Akimoto being referred to by Board members as being mocking or not sincere in his previous apology and that if he worked for one of the Board members he would have been fired. They questioned whether he understood gender sensitive words, as if he is a child. They feel they need to educate Dr. Akimoto on his language use and stated that he lost credibility in the community. They raised questions of professionalism. I have never heard any Board anywhere go after a professional like this publicly. They were not discussing facts but implying personal opinions to discredit Dr. Akimoto. It begs the question what is really happening here? Berg did say that Akimoto has gone off on him as well in the past. Is this retaliation?

The challenge of the elitist medical arrogance exemplifies further that the Guam Board of Medical Examiners would rather spend their time settling scores within their community than answering and resolving complaints by patients. This Board needs to set up an impartial investigation system for patients who have complaints against doctors, which by default they have refused to do and not waste time on what their own lawyer said was protected speech.

David Lubofsky is the proud father of Asher Dean Lubofsky, an activist against medical negligence and malpractice, and a resident of Tamuning.

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