Doctor’s Death Threats Were Grounds for Firing

     (CN) – Cook County was justified in firing an anesthesiologist who allegedly threatened to kill his supervisor and co-workers if a cancerous lesion on his lip spread, and said he might die in an ensuing gun battle with police, the 7th Circuit ruled.

     Dr. Philip Bodenstab called a friend in Seattle to tell her that he was on his way to the Mayo Clinic, and that if his cancer had spread, he was going to kill his supervisor and co-workers at Cook County Hospital, the friend told police. Bodenstab allegedly added that his life might end in a gun battle with police.
     Police in Chicago and the FBI in Seattle investigated the threats and found them credible.
     The hospital initially suspended Bodenstab with pay and told him to see a forensic psychiatrist for an evaluation of whether he was fit to work. Bodenstab refused.
     He eventually agreed to a five-day multi-disciplinary assessment, which revealed that he “suffered from paranoid and narcissistic personality features, and occupational and interpersonal stressors,” according to the ruling.
     He spent three months in an intensive day-treatment program. When he returned to work, he was promptly fired. Cook County Hospital had determined that the death threats were grounds for termination.
     Bodenstab sued the county, claiming his firing violated the First Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act and his due process rights.
     He lost at the district court level, and the federal appeals court in Chicago affirmed.
     “Bodenstab does not present any evidence calling into question the sincerity of Cook County’s belief that he had threatened to harm his co-workers and that it fired him for that reason,” Judge Manion wrote.

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