Stay Low, Lawyer Up by Pat Conrad MD

Up front, let me state that we only have one side of the story here.  I am not naive, and, libertarian as I am, do not, will not justify the dumb act of ordering “a bottle of Xanax from a wholesaler” for oneself.

This physician did the wrong thing, and word got to the Ohio state medical board, which determined her to be “an unregistered terminal distributor of dangerous drugs.”  Once on the state’s radar, the hits kept coming.  The Board determined that she was unfit to practice due to possible mental illness and ordered her to submit to a psychiatric exam.  Failure to so submit would be considered an admission of guilt.  The target passed the test but to no avail.  She then had to endure an in-patient addiction eval, and was told that the prescribed 72-hours would be lengthened to the clichéd 28 days.  The doctor refused, and had her license suspended.  When the smoke cleared, she had lost her license, her board certification, her DEA license, and her livelihood.

I hear what you are thinking:  she really was an addict mired in denial, would not comply with the program that justly evaluated her, and is playing woe-is-me when there was evidence that she had become unsafe for patients.  Maybe so.

But it is also quite possible that for the dumb act of ordering one bottle of Xanax, her career was destroyed through a series of board hearings and determinations that did not afford her the due process that we like to think citizens receive.  “I was offered a chance to face my accusers, the eight members of the state medical board, for five minutes at a public hearing. I took the offer. Three and a half minutes into my statement, the Board’s spokesman interrupted me and read a perfunctory statement echoing their lawyer’s sentiments. I was numb.”

I never realized going into medicine that all physicians have a target on their backs for the rest of their lives.  Point One:  We do not have the same protections that normal citizens have and deserve to be paranoid.  As depressing and infuriating as this is, it is reality.

Point Two:  Spend the money.  None of us should ever, ever respond in any way to a state medical board except through our attorney.

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