A former Princeton doctor is suing the city of Princeton and a local hospital, claiming that hospital officials falsified records and forced her out for her political views in 2017.
Dr. Lori Tucker said officials with Princeton Community Hospital Association Inc. falsified records amid an investigation and peer review after they prevented her from performing a medically necessary abortion and she advocated for certain treatments for pregnant women suffering from substance abuse, according to a lawsuit she filed in U.S. District Court Thursday.
Tucker, an OB-GYN, alleges that hospital and city officials violated her rights to freedom of speech and due process during a peer review in 2017.
Princeton Community Hospital and Tucker have political connections to members of the West Virginia House of Delegates, but those connections are not stated in the lawsuit.
Tucker deferred comments about the lawsuit to her attorney, Patricia Beavers, who was unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon.
A hospital official said administrators had not received notification of the lawsuit and did not comment on the case.
In 2016, Tucker was chief of staff at Princeton Community Hospital. In the lawsuit, she claims the hospital forced her out after two incidents, one in 2016 and another in 2017.
In 2016, she was scheduled to perform a medically necessary abortion on a pregnant patient whose fetus had been diagnosed with Sirenomelia, which also is called “mermaid syndrome,” according to the lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, Beavers said babies with the condition typically are stillborn or die shortly after birth.
Tucker consulted with physicians at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Princeton Community Hospital’s ethics committee, which approved the abortion, according to the lawsuit.
On the day of the procedure, Tucker said in the lawsuit, an unnamed hospital administrator ordered her not to perform the procedure. As a result, Tucker resigned as chief of staff, “as she felt that the administrative relationship between her and the Defendant Hospital had inappropriately been crossed” because the hospital interfered with patient care, Beavers said in the lawsuit.
The woman subsequently delivered the baby at another hospital. The baby died shortly after birth, and the mother required additional surgeries due to complications during the birth, Beavers said in the lawsuit.
In fall 2016, Tucker advocated for the use of Subutex for pregnant women who are addicted to opioids, but the hospital refused to adopt use of the medication as an accepted standard of care in those situations, the lawsuit states.
On March 13, 2017, Tucker appeared on a national television program and discussed her recommendation that Subutex be used as part of treatment for pregnant patients addicted to opioids, and she subsequently gave an interview to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph about the appearance and her recommendation, according to the lawsuit.
On March 29, 2017, Tucker said, she was directed to the hospital administrator’s office to meet with the chief of staff and chief medical officers, where she was directed to stop performing hysterectomies and other major surgical procedures pending a peer review of her work.
During the peer review, Tucker said, the hospital provided misleading documentation about her work by including documents from other physicians and omitting certain documents from the medical cases that were submitted for review.
She also claims in her lawsuit that hospital administrators failed to inform her of her rights, including her rights to appeal decisions and have an attorney present during interactions with hospital administrators and board members.
Tucker said she notified the chief of staff at the hospital that she would resign as a physician there, effective in July 2017. On July 10, the hospital’s medical ethics committee drafted a letter restricting Tucker’s surgical privileges, Beavers said in the lawsuit.
In addition to the allegations regarding Tucker’s political views in the lawsuit, there are other political connections to the parties in the case.
West Virginia Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, is the president of Princeton Community Hospital, according to the hospital’s website. Ellington is an OB-GYN, and he is chairman of the House Health and Human Resources Committee.
The lawsuit names a “Dr. Ellington” as one of the people who informed Tucker that she had been removed from the hospital’s calendar for scheduled C-sections in June 2017, but it does not provide the doctor’s first name.
In 2016, Tucker and now-Delegate Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, sparred on Facebook about abortion. Porterfield was elected to the House in 2018.
Tucker and Porterfield exchanged messages on Facebook after Tucker posted a video about abortion rights and Porterfield said he would organize an economic boycott of her practice if she didn’t change to an anti-abortion position, he told the Gazette-Mail last year.
Porterfield filmed a video response to Tucker after she publicly shared what Porterfield said had been a private Facebook message.
Porterfield’s response video appears to have been removed from Facebook, but a tweet with a link to what he said was the video response to Tucker remains on his Twitter feed.
Mercer County Magistrate Court records provided to the Gazette-Mail by Porterfield show that Tucker filed for a protective service order against Porterfield. The order later was dismissed when a magistrate found Porterfield did not make any threats of physical harm against Tucker.
Tucker’s case against the hospital had not been assigned to a judge by press time Thursday.