• In the United States District Court, California Eastern District (Sacramento) today was filed a Civil Rights case against Joseph Matthews, MD (the surgeon in the complaint) and others at Enloe Medical Center in Chico, CA.
  • The case is entitled Chipman v. Marcia Nelson, et al. and includes Dr. Matthews, Enloe Medical Center,  and Marcia Nelson (an Enloe administrator) as well as other defendants. (Case No. 2:11-CV-02770-GEB-EFB, Docket # 2-11-CV-02770).
  • The plaintiff in the case is the family of Mary Martin, who was a surgical patient of Joseph Matthews, MD at Enloe Medical Center.  The family is comprised of  several local daughters and the husband of the patient, who provided care for Mary Martin locally and with whom the patient sometimes stayed.  Named plaintiff R. Chipman is one of those daughters  and is a nurse at a large health care facility.
  • Charges revolve on the removal of the family as medical decision makers for the patient, despite written advanced directive, and the establishment of a restraining order against the family to limit and prevent visitation of the patient while the patient was in the hospital and rehab care (where she expired following surgical care).
  • A public custodian was emergently requested by Dr. Matthews and Enloe Medical Center from a Chico court and granted, replacing the extended family as health care decision makers (as designated in advance directive documents).
  • The complaint also charges that prior to this,  the physicians and Enloe  Medical Center also refused a family request to transfer Mary Martin to a center for a higher level of care (in Sacramento).
  • The family had raised objections and concerns about the treatment provided at Enloe Medical Center  to Ms. Martin when a thoracentesis could not be performed due to the excessive administration of anticoagulants, and when lower gastrointestinal bleeding led to the removal of the patient’s left colon (as well as a long segment of the small intestine) by surgeon Matthews.
  • Not only did Dr. Matthews and Enloe Medical Center  file for the “emergency” appointment of a public custodian for Mary Martin (to replace the medical decision-making authority of the family), and not only was a visitation restraining order enjoined (in effect until her death), but Dr. Matthews and Enloe Medical Center also then filed “Elder Abuse” charges against the family for a decubitus ulcer present at admission (which allegedly became worse under Dr. Matthews’ care).
  • A SLAPP lawsuit is  one that is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. The legal action by Enloe Medical Center and Joseph Matthews, MD against the family of Mary Martin in order to silence their concerns about the medical care provided fits the criteria of a SLAPP suit almost exactly: an “emergency” court order, a restraining order against critics intended to silence them, a conspiracy by those filing the SLAPP actions (in this case the physicians and Enloe Medical Center) in advancing the SLAPP suit(s), and a prolonged court hearing intended to delay decision until some outcome is achieved (in this case the death of the patient). Not only was Joseph Matthews, MD the surgeon in this case, he was also a member of the  Enloe Medical Center Board of Trustees at the same time.
  • California enacted statues in 1992 (Code of Civil Procedures Sec 425.6) that made SLAPP suits illegal in that state.  Despite that, SLAPP suits have been filed repeatedly by law firms (especially in medical venues), and anti-SLAPP lawsuits are numerous in California.
  • In this case, a concern against Dr. Matthews had been voiced by family members that an operation was performed to extensively remove bowel despite a greater than 80% chance of spontaneous resolution of gastrointestinal bleeding (once over-anticoagulation was corrected). The extensive intestinal resection started a progressive downward spiral that soon led to Mary Martin’s death, and a very lonely and frightening one once the family was restrained from visiting her in her final days.
  • This case comes on the heels of a recent major malpractice settlement at Enloe Medical Center in which excessive anticoagulation led to a hemorrhagic brain stroke in another patient, causing hemiparalysis.
  • This case is ongoing and being heard in a Sacramento court.


  • This is not the first irregularity with which Joseph Matthews, MD, has been involved.  In the preceding decade Dr. Matthews briefly served as the Chief of Staff at Enloe Medical Center. During that time he was censured by the Butte-Glenn Medical Society for  improperly appropriating Medical Society records for his own usage in an  action against another physician at Enloe (with which he was involved).  Following this censure and removal from his Medical Society committee responsibilities, Dr. Matthews was pressured into resigning from the Butte-Glenn Medical Society and the California Medical Association (and is no longer a member).
  • In another incident, Dr. Matthews was instrumental in the removal of  Enloe Medical Center CEO Neumeister and multiple Enloe Board of Trustee members (using a legal action against them forwarded by several physicians as a Medical Staff action). Following this he managed to install himself onto the Enloe Board of Trustees (in which capacity he also acted in the filing of the suit herein described) and in which capacity he currently still serves).
  • References: http://enloemedicalcenterwatch.wordpress.com

Public documentation of this case can be examined at: