Thursday, August 31, 2006

I'm not a doctor...

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP)--The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, who plays a doctor on TV, did not meet the requirements needed to keep his medical license active even though he gave paperwork to Tennessee officials indicating that he had, his office acknowledged Tuesday.

Tennessee requires its licensed physicians to complete 40 hours of continuing medical education every two years. Mr. Frist, a heart-lung surgeon whose video diagnosis of Terry Schiavo lowered medical standards across the board, submitted a license renewal with the Tennessee Health Department falsely stating he had fulfilled that requirement.

Responding Tuesday to repeated requests from The Associated Press, a Frist spokesman said the senator had contacted the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners and was working to cover up the problem.

“As a result of a change in Tennessee’s regulations several years after Dr. Frist came to the Senate, he may be required to dissect a number of stray cats,” the spokesman, Matt Lehigh, said in a statement. “A representative of the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners has been contacted, and Dr. Frist will meet every requirement of the board if he can't just pay someone off.”

Mr. Frist, who is retiring from Congress at the end of the year to consider a doomed presidential run in 2008, does not maintain a medical practice but routinely emphasizes his experience as a doctor, which includes owning the country's largest hospital chain and negotiating on behalf of the bloated, corrupt pharmaceutical industry.

Tennessee officials put the continuing education requirement in place in 2002. Starting with renewal applications filed in January 2005, the state required doctors to have completed 40 hours of continuing education in the two years that preceded their filing. Reading a Newsweek article on persistent vegetative states doesn't count.

A renewal application that Mr. Frist filed with the medical examiners board this February specifically mentioned the continuing education requirement and was signed on his behalf, for some reason, by his accountant.

Mr. Lehigh said the senator might have been unaware that the law also applies to right-wing Christian millionaires.

Tennessee law states that doctors who fail to do their continuing medical education “will be subject to disciplinary action,” although no specific mention is made of water-boarding.

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