Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center has refuted claims that it planned to take legal action against a University of Maine student, Samson Cournane, over his safety-related criticisms.
The 15-year-old college junior had penned a petition detailing potential safety concerns at the hospital. This move followed his mother, Anne Yered, a former pediatrician at the same hospital, allegedly being dismissed due to highlighting similar issues.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a free speech advocacy group, wrote to the hospital last month. The letter demanded the retraction of an alleged lawsuit threat aimed at Cournane.
However, the hospital countered this narrative in a recent email. Suzanne Spruce, the hospital’s spokesperson, clarified that the hospital became aware of Cournane contacting healthcare personnel about topics connected to his mother’s claims without revealing his link to her.
Spruce emphasized that the hospital had not threatened Cournane and denounced allegations of Yered’s dismissal due to safety concerns. She added that while the hospital respects the right to free speech, it doesn’t provide carte blanche for spreading “factually unsupported” claims that erode public trust.
Highlighting the institution’s dedication to patient safety, Spruce referenced their A-rating from The Leapfrog Group, a body that evaluates hospitals on various parameters including safety.
In response to FIRE’s advocacy for Cournane, Spruce reiterated that false claims potentially harming the hospital’s reputation may be legally challenged. FIRE, in their communications, urged the hospital to officially state that they won’t sue Cournane, emphasizing his age and rights.
Cournane’s September 18, 2022, petition cited his mother’s attempts to expose safety issues and alleged confrontational actions by the hospital, such as a senior manager allegedly trespassing in her backyard.
Emphasizing his right to free speech, Cournane remarked, “I should be able to voice my concerns without being intimidated into silence.”