When patients in Texas need protective psychiatric care, a fully licensed physician—MD or DO, according to state law—must sign a medical certificate saying so. However, in September, a DO psychiatrist reached out to the Texas Osteopathic Medical Association (TOMA) because a judge in Harris County, where Houston is located, had directed the clerk’s office of the probate court to only accept certificates signed by MDs.
TOMA, along with the Texas Medical Association, the Federation of Texas Psychiatry and the Harris County Medical Society, sent a letter asking the judge to reverse the directive. The AOA also penned a letter to the judge, noting that in addition to violating the state constitution, the directive put public health at risk.
The county judge continued to stand by his directive, so the AOA contacted the Harris County Attorney’s Office, which shared the case with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Along the way, the case got a boost from Texas state senator Charles Schwertner (R), who is an MD, according to The Houston Chronicle.
“The simple fact is, Judge Olsen doesn’t have the authority to decide which physicians he does or does not want to listen to,” wrote Dr. Schwertner in a letter soliciting the Attorney General’s opinion on the matter. “Regardless of this man’s opinion, the law governing the practice of medicine is exceeding clear: DOs—just like MDs—are fully trained, licensed, and accredited physicians with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. Period.”
Two months later, Attorney General Paxton ruled that DOs are complete physicians and can sign certificates for involuntary psychiatric commitment. TOMA President David E. Garza, DO, lauded the ruling: “As we expected, the Texas Health and Safety Code clearly states that a doctor of osteopathic medicine issued an unrestricted license by the Texas Medical Board is fully qualified to practice medicine in the state. In fact, Texas led the nation as one of the first groups of states to grant such rights 100 years ago.”