A physician from Iran, suddenly barred from using a small Virginia town's only hospital, has accused officials there of trying to ruin his medical practice in anger over the seizure of American hostages in Tehran.
For four years before the seizure, Dr. Parvis Modaber enjoyed a successful practice as one of two obstetricians in Culpeper, a farming town about 60 miles southwest of Washington. Then last fall, according to a lawsuit he has filed, officials at Culpeper Memorial Hospital took a new interest in his work, down to reviewing his patient charts and criticizing his choice of medicines. Their inquiries culminated earlier this fall in a decision to revoke his use of the hospital.
That decision, which the doctor asserts is tantamont to financial ruin, came after a year of quarreling. Modaber, a naturalized American who left Iran in the 1950s, has taken the issue to a state court in Culpeper and won the right to keep using the hospital until Jan. 16. Hospital officials refuse to discuss details of their case, but say they will press their fight to oust the physician.
"The action was motivated by national origin and the fact that he is nonwhite," charges Modaber's attorney, David Landon of Charlottesville. He has accused the hospital of denying the doctor "a full and impartial hearing" on the issues.
Although the takeover of the American Embassy is not mentioned in the lawsuit, the prolonged hostage crisis definitely "played a role" in Modaber's troubles, the lawyer says. The reaction of many Americans to the troubles in Tehran, coupled with Modaber being regarded as "different" from others in Culpeper, led the hospital to expel him, Landon said.
"I think it's obvious to anyone who reads the papers we've filed," says the lawyer, who traces the "genesis of the steps" against his client to late October and early November 1979, the time of the embassy takeover.
The hospital had allowed the physician to practice there almost three years before it decided to revoke his hospital privileges. It then began raising questions about the way he kept his medical charts, his use of certain antibiotics and two instances in which babies he delivered by cesarean section received "nicks" on the sides of their heads, the lawyer said. They also complained that too many of the infants he delivered were born by cesarean section.
The doctor, who is in his early 50s, was directed to abandon his practice and return to school for a year of post-graduate work. But his lawyer said facility.
Modaber defended his medical capabilities and asked that an independent health agency, from outside the Culpeper area, be allowed to review his work. The hospital, Landon says, refused.
Furthermore, when he was summoned before a hospital review panel, which did not include an obstetrician, Modaber was not allowed to have either his lawyer or his brother, a physician who speaks better English, present.
"This is not a case where there are allegations of death or serious injuries to patients," says Landon."If there are areas of professional dispute, then that can be decided. But in this case, the punishment does not fit the crime, if the crime is true."
Modaber, according to his lawyer, believes the hospital physicians who acted against him were motivated by personal, not professional, differences. Without access to Culpeper's hospital, his practice would cease, he has argued in court papers. In addition, he claims his ability to gain hospital privileges will be impaired if the Culpeper action is unchallenged.