HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston couple is suing a fertility doctor because they claim they were treated by a woman who was not licensed to practice medicine in Texas.
When Raynetta Manning and her husband had their first child, the couple were in their 20s.
A decade later, when they decided to grow their family, they soon realized they needed help from a fertility doctor.
The Mannings met with Dr. Michael Allon and agreed to undergo infertility treatment. After the initial meeting, however, Raynetta said Allon introduced her to a woman working in the office, identified as Dr. Beata Tralik.
"I thought she was a medical doctor," she said. Raynetta would eventually undergo procedures and take prescription medication under Tralik's guidance.
"She did a pap smear on me as well as, numerous times when I was pregnant, she did vaginal ultrasounds, and abdominal ultrasounds," recalled Raynetta.
What she didn't know at the time is that Tralik has a Ph.D., but is not a licensed physician in Texas.
"My client had no idea she wasn't a medical doctor, and she was referred to staff as a doctor," said Allen Zwernemann, the attorney representing the Mannings.
"The staff referred to her as a doctor," said Raynetta. "They called me, left messages on my phone, referring to herself as a doctor. I referred to her as a doctor. Dr. Allon referred to her as a doctor. I trusted everybody, so I didn't think anything different."
Allon's attorney denied the allegations in a statement issued to ABC13 on Monday.
"Beata Tralik has experience in many fields but works as the IVF coordinator at Dr. Allon's practice. The allegations made by the plaintiff against her and others in the lawsuit seeking money are false. The same allegations were made to the Texas medical board, were investigated fully, and were dismissed. Dr. Allon is an excellent physician who tried to help Ms. Manning. It is disappointing she would make unfounded allegations now."
However, Zwernemann, said his suit has merit.
"If you work in a doctor's office, and you don't have a license to practice medicine, you do not call yourself a doctor. That's fraud that's misrepresentation and actionable," he said.
The president of the Texas Medical Board cannot comment on specific investigations. However, the president of the board, Dr. Sherif Zaafran, said the board does have rules in place to prevent patient confusion.
"Any reasonable person seeing a person in a white coat who refers to themselves as a doctor and not clearly identifying themselves can clearly be confusing to a patient," said Zaafran. "That's important. A patient needs clear information and knows who's taking care of them."
Zaafran said patients can file complaints with the Texas Medical Board.
Usually people holding themselves to be licensed physicians will first get a cease and desist letter. In certain circumstances, it could lead to criminal charges with the appropriate district attorney's office.
"If a person says, 'I'm doctor so and so and I can treat X, Y and Z' and they don't clarify they are not a physician, that is a violation of a board rule," said Zaafran.
While the rules preventing physician confusion may be clear, the rules governing what employees can do under a doctor's direction is much more open.
The Texas Medical Board said there is wide latitude on what a licensed doctor can authorize someone to do under his guidance.
"We hold the physician responsible to the appropriateness of what they're delegating and the qualifications that they're person they're delegating to," explained Zaafran.
In Raynetta's case, she said the whole experience was devastating. She was able to retrieve one egg and get pregnant.
She lost that baby and is now out of options. Unfortunately, Raynetta said she will never know if the treatment she got would have made a difference.
"It's not what I signed up for that's a factor. That did not have to be in play and should not have been," she said.