Justices say radiology tech should be disciplined

By Steve Korris | Jun 3, 2011

CHARLESTON –- Radiology technician Kenneth Harrison, who injected Benadryl into a patient without a doctor's authority, lost his license for two years.

On May 26, the Supreme Court of Appeals approved discipline that the state Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy Technology Board of Examiners proposed.

The Justices reversed Monongalia Circuit Judge Phillip Gaujot, who saw no harm in Harrison's action.

Harrison, who first earned a radiology license in 1986, started working at West Virginia University Hospitals about nine years ago.

In 2008, radiology department director Darlene Headley advised the board of examiners that she had terminated him for working outside the scope of his practice.

Headley wrote that he admitted to administering Benadryl intravenously.

The examiners opened an investigation, and Harrison answered that the patient had an allergic reaction to "contrast media," a drug that sharpens images.

He wrote that hives and hiccups deteriorated rapidly into respiratory distress.

He wrote that technician Ronna Shaneyfelt paged radiology resident Mithra Kimyai-Asadi, who didn't respond in a timely manner.

"She did not make herself available and technologists in this facility draw up medications all the time without the presence of the physician when making trays for special procedures, biopsies and abscess drainages," he wrote.

At a hearing, Shaneyfelt said the patient wasn't in distress.

She said she asked if he was okay and he nodded affirmatively.

She said Kimyai-Asadi arrived no more than five minutes after she paged her.

Technician Kenneth Bragg, testifying for Harrison, said he would feel authorized to administer Benadryl if a patient developed an allergic reaction to contrast media.

He didn't help Harrison much, however, because he admitted he had never done it.

Hearing examiner Jack McClung ruled that intravenous administration of Benadryl violated the laws pertaining to the scope of practice.

The board of examiners voted to suspend Harrison for two years, with three years of probation to follow.

Gaujot reversed the decision, finding no relevant regulation, code or policy that expressly prohibited the action.

He identified a "vague institutional policy" that could reasonably lead technicians to believe they were authorized to administer Benadryl.

While Gaujot found nothing prohibiting it, the Justices found nothing authorizing it.

"Thus, in the absence of any statutory language that it is within the scope of practice for a radiologic technologist to administer medications other than contrast media, this court finds that the circuit court's conclusion otherwise was in error," they wrote.

Attorney General Darrell McGraw and Nicole Cofer of his office represented the board of examiners.

Jacques Williams of Morgantown represented Harrison.

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