Fla. Doctor Tells Obama Voters to Go Away

Rep. Grayson says doctor violates Hippocratic Oath, discriminates.

April 02, 2010, 2:14 PM

April 2, 2010— -- A Florida man who had been referred to specialist Dr. Jack Cassell found this sign on the doctor's office door: "If you voted for Obama, seek urologic care elsewhere. Changes to your healthcare begin right now, not in four years."

At first, he thought it was a joke, but the receptionist assured the man, who did not want to be identified, that it was not a joke.

Now, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., is filing a formal complaint with the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Medical Board.

"A doctor takes an oath to help improve the health of patients, not just Republican patients or Democratic patients or conservatives or liberals," Grayson told ABCNews.com. "They take an oath to cure people."

"I think it's disgusting," he said. "I know that most people go into health care because they want to help sick people. They don't have some political agenda. I think it's outrageous that someone would try to press his political agenda, and deny people health care because of it."

Democrats in GOP-heavy Mount Dora -- a town of about 9,400 just 30 miles from downtown Orlando -- are largely African American, according to Grayson, so Cassell's sign may constitute illegal discrimination.

"Many people who voted for Barack Obama are black, so they are in effect turning away African Americans," he said. "They are denying medical care of the basis of how people vote. How would the Republicans feel if we denied police services on that basis?"

"I'm not turning anybody away -- that would be unethical," Cassell, 56, a registered Republican who is opposed to the health plan, told the Orlando Sentinel. "But if they read the sign and turn the other way, so be it."

ABCNews.com attempted to call Cassell, but his office phone was repeatedly busy.

The incident was reported to the congressman by Estella Chapman, a 67-year-old retiree whose daughter took the photo of the sign outside Cassell's door.

"I was so dumbfounded when my friend called me about it," said Chapman, a former assistant bank vice-president and grandmother from nearby Eustis, Fla. "I couldn't believe that anyone would go to that extreme in this little old town where I was born and lived for over 30 years."

Chapman is an African-American who voted for Obama and supported health care reform.

"I can afford to pay for it," she said. "But people who can't afford insurance, why would anyone not want them to have an opportunity for decent coverage?"

"I see the Tea Party go to extremes," Chapman said. "I went through that in the 1960s and the civil rights era. But this is 2010 and you don't expect this from educated people. How does a doctor put his political view over taking care of patients?"

Tea Party Mother Hails Doctor

But Seattle mother of four and Tea Party member Shelby Blakely called Cassell's action "awesome."

As executive director of the New Patriot Journal, the media arm of the national Tea Party movement, she opposes the healthcare law, which she sees as government intervention in the doctor-patient relationship, and is working toward its repeal.

"I think the one big problem with healthcare is that the patient is isolated from any consequences," she said. "They pay the deductibles and it all looks great. These doctors are business owners. They hire staff, pay benefits for staff and make ends meet for themselves and everyone they look after."

What would be unethical, according to Blakely, would be if the doctor took up a political discussion with the patient in the examining room. Hanging a sign outside his door is a matter of free speech, she said.

The American Medical Association, which offered "qualified support" for Obama's healthcare bill, has a code of medical ethics that is not enforceable, but gives doctors guidance on various issues of patient care.

The first line of its code emphasizes that physicians enjoy the same freedom of speech as other Americans, "but under no circumstances should different political views interfere with the delivery of care."

According to AMA Code of Medical Ethics, "It is laudable for physicians to run for political office; to lobby for political positions, parties or candidates; and in every other way to exercise the full scope of their political rights as citizens."

"Physicians will express their views to patients or their families," the code reads. However communications about political matters must be "conducted with the utmost sensitivity to patients' vulnerability and desire for privacy."

These conversations are also inappropriate when patients or their families are "emotionally pressured by significant medical circumstances."

Dr. David Cronin, associate professor of surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin, who trained in medical ethics at University of Chicago, said under federal law doctors cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed or sexual orientation.

As for voting habits, "that's an interesting question," he said.

"It might be quite distasteful to say, if you voted for Obama's health plan there is no need to come to my office," he said. "I don't like it, but is it illegal? I don't think so."

Grayson he is supporting Chapman, even it means filing a lawsuit if Cassell is in violation of federal discrimination laws.

"I think that the sore losers are out in force," he said. "What they don't understand is that we've decided as a country to make sure that people can see a doctor when they need to. I don't know what they are so upset about. I really don't."

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