Arizona Appeals Court Affirms Dentist’s Suspension Over Questionable Prescriptions

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 13, 2016, an Arizona appeals court affirmed the suspension of a dentist who allegedly had a history of opioid addiction and who also allegedly wrote dozens of questionable prescriptions. The Arizona appeals court held that the state dental board didn’t violate his due process rights and had substantial evidence backing its decision that it wasn’t safe for him to practice.

The Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One, concluded that the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners had acted within its authority by suspending Dr. Michael Wassef’s license to practice dentistry in the state. This was following Dr. Wassef’s refusal to submit to the dental board’s requests after it discovered evidence suggesting he had relapsed. The appeals court decision upheld a lower court’s decision affirming the dental board’s order.

History of Opioid Abuse?

Dr. Wassef’s possible relapse into opioid addiction reportedly first came to the attention of authorities in March 2014. This allegedly occurred when a pharmacist contacted the dental board to raise concerns about Dr. Wassef’s prescription-writing practices, according to the court’s decision. The board discovered that he had received prescriptions for controlled substances in increasing amounts over a six-year time period. Additionally, Dr. Wassef allegedly wrote 44 prescriptions in two years for the muscle relaxant Soma for his wife, his assistant and his assistant’s daughter, the opinion said.

After he tested positive for Soma and another medication, Dr. Wassef refused to submit to an assessment. As a result, the dental board issued an interim order that he obtain an inpatient substance-abuse evaluation, according to the opinion. He refused, and the dental board suspended his license in April 2014.

Arizona State Court Sides With Board.

Dr. Wassef contended that the board denied him due process by suspending his license without allowing him the opportunity to defend himself. Despite Wassef’s claims, the appeals court wasn’t swayed, explaining that the board didn’t have to give him a hearing before entering the interim order and can summarily suspend a licensee when it concludes.

The state board had more than enough evidence to conclude that Dr. Wassef was unsafe to practice dentistry, the appeals court panel held. “Under these circumstances, the board was not required to accept Dr. Wassef’s explanations and Dr. Wassef did not disprove the board’s suspicions,” the panel held. “Thus, the dental board had reasonable grounds to take emergency action to prevent harm to the public.”

To read the decision on this matter, click here.

To read more on the repercussions of choices such as this, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Serious Allegations Need Serious Legal Representation.

When a dentist, physician, nurse, psychologist, pharmacist, or other licensed health professional is accused of drug abuse or alcohol abuse, this is a very serious matter. As happened in this case, your license can be suspended putting you out of work and terminating your ability to pay for a legal defense.

Several things are a must. You must have good professional liability insurance that pays for the legal defense of complaints filed against your license, preferable with $50,000 or more of coverage for this type of event. Second, you must immediately retain experience health care legal counsel who deals with these types of cases routinely. Often there are options to such a harsh remedy as a suspension. Additionally, all the time spent from initial notification of the complaint, should be used in obtaining evidence to show that the dentist is not currently impaired. This can be routine random urinalysis testing, treatment with psychiatrist and certified addictions professionals, evaluation by special physicians health programs and other actions.

Usually, suspension is only appropriate when the physicians condition makes him an immediate threat to patient safety. Being able to prove that the physician is not a threat is te key to preventing a suspension. Also, using the time and money in appealing such a decision may, in may cases, be better used in requesting an emergency hearing and getting the evidence needed for that hearing.

Consult With An Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Dentists and Other Health Professionals.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents dentists, dental technicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing dentists and dental hygienists and other health professionals in investigations and at Board of dentistry hearings and other legal matters. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Posses, Shayna. “Ariz. Court Backs Dentist’s Suspension Over Dubious Scripts.” Law360. (December 13, 2016). Web.

“Arizona Court Backs Dentist’s Suspension.” Lexis Nexis. (December 13, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for dentists, defense attorney for dentists, legal counsel for dentists and dental assistants, defense attorney for health care professionals, DEA investigation defense attorney, legal representation for DEA investigations, legal representation for board investigations, defense attorney for board of dentistry matters, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, dental board defense work, dental board investigations, impaired dentists, impaired professionals, physician health programs, administrative hearings, complaint investigation defense attorney for dentists, appeals (and variations on appeal ) of adverse license action, license revocation, emergency suspension orders, appeals of emergency suspension orders, Professionals Resources Network (PRN) attorney, Florida dentist defense attorney, Virginia dentist defense lawyer, Louisiana dentist defense legal counsel, Colorado dentist defense lawyer, Kentucky legal dentist defense counsel, District of Columbia dentist legal representation

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Safeway Pharmacy Settles Medical Negligence and Wrongful Death Suit Over Woman’s Death

PS 4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 5, 2016, a Nebraska magistrate judge signed off on an agreement resolving a widower’s wrongful death suit. The medical negligence suit contends that Safeway pharmacists negligently dispensed methadone and another medication to the plaintiff’s now-dead wife even though using the drugs together is risky, ultimately leading to her death.

Medical Negligence.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas D. Thalken, granted a stipulation of dismissal in Brian Crawford’s litigation alleging that Safeway is liable for his wife’s death. Crawford alleges that Safeway is responsible for his late wife’s death because its pharmacists gave her both methadone and fluconazole, despite the fact that the medications are contraindicated for simultaneous use. Click here to read the order in full.

Brian Crawford, who originally filed suit in April 2014, alleged in an amended complaint later that year that Safeway “breached its duty to decedent Hilary Crawford by failing to provide reference material appropriate for the efficient and safe practice of pharmacy for use by its registered pharmacists which would alert the dispensing pharmacist of the adverse drug-drug interaction of methadone and fluconazole prior to the point of dispensing and delivering to decedent Hilary Crawford.”

To read the amended complaint, click here.

Crawford alleges that the failure to provide its pharmacists with those materials led to a number of missteps that contributed to her death in April 2012. For example, the pharmacists failed multiple times to provide Hilary Crawford with counseling and information about the increase in methadone when she was starting larger doses. Also, she was twice given another prescription for the drug before the prior one had run out, the complaint alleged.

The pharmacists also allegedly made several errors surrounding the dispensing of fluconazole to treat a yeast infection she contracted, according to the complaint.

The Other Side of the Story.

In its defense, Safeway moved to exclude the testimony of Brian Crawford’s toxicology expert, Henry Nipper, contending that his opinion lacked reliability. The company then followed up with a summary judgment bid in September, saying that without Nipper’s testimony, Brian Crawford wouldn’t be able to prove causation.

“There is not admissible evidence against Safeway that the combination of fluconazole and methadone taken by the plaintiff’s decedent caused her death. Rather, the overwhelming evidence is that the plaintiff’s decedent took twice as much methadone as she was instructed to by the pharmacy and by her physician. She exhibited signs of overdose in the several days prior to her death,” Safeway said. “Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms were not appreciated by her family and friends.”

However, Judge Thalken denied the motions in late September 2016, and the parties reached a settlement in October 2016, according to court filings.

To learn more about medical negligence suits, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacists, Pharmacies, and Other Health Care Providers.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians in investigations and at Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine hearings. We represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, in patient complaints and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“Safeway Settles Medical Negligence Suit Over Woman’s Death.” Lexis Nexis. (December 5, 2016). Web.

Posses, Shayna. “Safeway Settles Medical Negligence Suit Over Woman’s Death.” Law360. (December 5, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Medical negligence lawsuit, wrongful death lawsuit, medical negligence defense attorney, wrongful death defense lawyer, legal representation for medical negligence, legal representation for wrongful death lawsuits, legal representation for pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies, defense attorney for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Louisiana Board of Pharmacy attorney, Colorado Board of Pharmacy defense legal counsel, Virginia Board of Pharmacy defense lawyer, Kentucky Board of Pharmacy defense attorney, District of Columbia (D.C.) Board of Pharmacy lawyer, Louisiana pharmacist attorney, Colorado pharmacist defense legal counsel, Virginia pharmacist defense lawyer, Kentucky pharmacist defense attorney, District of Columbia (D.C.) pharmacist lawyer

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.