November 10, 2009
Interim Suspension Of Medical License Upheld
The Vermont Supreme Court rejected contentions of a medical doctor that his license to practice had been improperly suspended by the Medical Practice Board while charges of unprofessional conduct are adjudicated. The allegations:
On March 31, 2009, the State moved to summarily suspend [the doctor's] medical license based on a simultaneously-filed specification of charges containing fifty-five counts of alleged unprofessional conduct, a State investigator’s affidavit, and an exhibit consisting of [the doctor's] 2004 “letter of assurance” to the Board. Based on a review of the medical records of ten patients, pharmacy records, and several interviews, the State alleged, in summary, that [the doctor] had repeatedly abused his authority by prescribing excessive quantities of powerful narcotics for patients without noting and copying the prescriptions in patients’ charts, conducting adequate medical histories and examinations, documenting the physical symptoms and medical bases for the prescriptions, considering indications of drug dependency and adverse side effects from the large quantities of narcotics prescribed, or accounting for the risk of drug abuse and diversion, all in violation of acceptable standards of professional conduct.
In addition, the charges alleged that [the doctor] had altered patients’ charts, failed to produce medical records requested by the Board, made material misrepresentations to the Board, and violated numerous provisions of an earlier letter of assurance to the Board. The letter was the product of a State investigation, dating from 2000, into pharmacist reports concerning [his]prescriptions of large quantities of narcotics. The investigation remained open, and in 2004 resulted in a detailed letter of assurance from [him] agreeing to several conditions, including promises to consult regularly with a New Hampshire-based anesthesiologist concerning the use of narcotics to treat pain; to accept no new patients likely to require treatment for chronic pain; to prescribe no Schedule II drugs for periods longer than fourteen days; to scrupulously maintain patient charts, documenting their diagnosis, condition, and the rationale for prescribing controlled substances; to retain copies of all prescriptions for Schedule II drugs; to require all patients being treated for chronic pain to enter into written agreements governing their receipt and use of prescriptions for controlled substances; and to promptly comply with all Board requests for records.
The court found that the preponderance of evidence standard did not violate the doctor's rights. (Mike Frisch)
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