299 Physician Assistant Scope of Practice 2015
delegate and under what conditions such delegations can be made.119 One
case in particular illustrates the legal precedent of physician task delega-
tion.120 The California Supreme Court case, Whittaker v. Superior Court of
Shasta County,121 is notable not only because of the court’s handling of licensure elements, custom, and supervision in deciding the issue of delegation, but because of its influence on the development of the PA profes-
sion.122 Whittaker involved the right of a neurosurgeon to use a trained
surgical assistant to assist in brain surgery. .Although it did not involve a
licensed PA, the decision was a seminal event for the fledgling PA profes-
sion.123 Roger G. Whittaker was a former Navy corpsman and Vietnam
veteran, who had attended the Navy’s Hospital Corpsman School and Operating Technician School.124 He was attending the University of California
on veterans’ benefits and took a job as an assistant with the only practicing
neurosurgeon within 275 miles in Redding, California. 125 The California
State Board of Medical Examiners charged Whittaker with practicing medicine without a license because he operated a cranial drill to bore holes and
excise skull flaps during neurosurgical operations.126 The State Board also
charged the surgeon with aiding and abetting an unlicensed person to practice medicine.127
During his testimony, the chairman of the board of Redding Memorial
Hospital admitted that the defendant was a “better neurosurgical assistant”
than the chairman.128 Nevertheless, the court found Whittaker guilty of
drilling burr holes without a license, and found the surgeon guilty of aiding
and abetting him.129 However, the jury determined that their services were
beneficial to the patient and the community.130 The court imposed nominal
penalties and suspended sentences of thirty days in jail—Whittaker was
119. See JANE C. RECORD, The findings and policy implications, in STAFFING PRIMARY
CARE IN 1990, SPRINGER SERIES ON HEALTH CARE AND SOCIETY 131–153 (1981). See also
JANE C. RECORD, The Productivity of New Health Practitioners, in STAFFING PRIMARY CARE
IN 1990, SPRINGER SERIES ON HEALTH CARE AND SOCIETY 37–52 (1981).
120. Reginald Carter et al., People v. Whitaker: The Trial and its Aftermath in California, 19 J. PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT EDUC. 44, 45-46 (2008).
121. Whittaker v. Superior Court, 68 Cal.2d 357, 359 (Cal. 1968).
122. Douglas Condit, Our Military Heritage, 17 PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT 58, 62 (1993).
See also Carter et al., supra note 120, at 47-50 (discussing the trial and its outcome and subsequent impact on the field).
123. HOOKER ET AL., supra note 89, at 433. See also Carter et al., supra note 120, at 48-
124. Condit, supra note 122, at 62.
126. Carter et al., supra note 120, at 47.
127. Condit, supra note 122, at 62; HOOKER ET AL., supra note 89, at 433.
128. Condit, supra note 122, at 62.
129. Carter et al., supra note 120, at 46-48.
130. Condit, supra note 122, at 62.