A case of incompetence involving a prison doctor in Washington

Incarcerated persons deserve quality medical care like everyone else. Unfortunately, malpractice can happen in custody as it does in civilian settings. This is what happened in the case of Dr. Julia Barnett, the former head physician of Monroe Correctional Complex northeast of Seattle, who had her physician and surgeon license stripped for negligence and malpractice in November.

Stories run the gamut of incompetent physicians who mistreat or abuse their patients. This is such a case involving Dr. Julia Barnett, the former head physician of Monroe Correctional Complex northeast of Seattle.

Inadequate care, unprofessional conduct

Citing the inadequate care of the facility’s prisoners, the Washington Medical Commission suspended Barnett’s medical license on Nov. 16. The commission declared her to be “an immediate danger to the public health and safety” and that she carried out poor and unprofessional conduct.

The commission’s findings confirmed the results of the earlier investigation by the state Department of Corrections, which fired Barnett in 2019.

During that earlier internal probe, the state discovered that six inmates received insufficient medical care that Barnett provided or oversaw. Three of those inmates died. Among the cases cited included an inmate left untreated for several days after a diagnosis of a perforated bladder; an inmate with a serious lung condition who died after receiving inadequate treatment; and an inmate who died due to an infected surgical wound.

Hired in 2017, Barnett eventually received a promotion to medical director at the prison, even though she lacked certain qualifications, including not completing an approved residency or securing board certification.

Medical patients throughout Washington and the U.S. remain better off without the services of physicians like Barnett. The Hippocratic Oath for physicians is there for reason.