Harold E. Smith, a University of Florida professor, has faced action from the Florida Board of Medicine, who decided in a unanimous vote to require the professor, who has a history or drug and alcohol abuse to leave his job without pay after he was found to have prescribed so much Oxycontin to a patient at a hospital that the dose was considered lethal.
The Doctor’s Deadly Decision Making
The action being taken around the professor stems from an incident in 2010. A patient named Alice Tomlinson was admitted to the Central Florida Behavioral Hospital after complaining of symptoms like acute pain and severe depression. At the time of being admitted, Tomlinson was already taking a number of other medications, including Klonopin. While under the care of Dr. Smith, Tomlinson then had the doses of Klonopin and Oxycontin drastically increased. After being administered extremely high volumes of both drugs, she began to exhibit signs of sedation. Despite that fact the Tomlinson was extremely sedated, and had a history of trying to seek out drugs, Dr. Smith continued to medicate her without consulting with other physicians, such as an internist or a pain management specialist. Tomlinson subsequently died on December 21, 2010.
Punishment for Smith
The consequences set forward for Smith came after Smith’s attorney, Andre Ourso, advocated for the board to allow Smith to settle his case by paying a $10,000 fee and submitting to another $6,000 in costs as well as attending counseling sessions for himself and enrolling in medical education courses. This offer was rejected by the board, who insisted on a more stringent punishment for the allegedly negligent doctor. The members of the board countered Ourso’s proposal with an action that would allow for similar repercussions for Smith, save for the medical education courses suggested by his attorney, and proposed instead that the doctor face more strict screening from the state’s Comprehensive Assessment and Remedial Education Services, which analyzes a physician’s ability to serve and by assessing their knowledge and competency. In the event that Smith does face the Florida Comprehensive Assessment and Remedial Education Services, he will then face the board yet again, at which point the issue of whether further action should be taken from him will be decided. To date, Smith and his legal team have not accepted this counter proposal from the board, and the team has expressed that an acceptance of the board’s counter is unlikely. If this counter offer from the board is indeed rejected by Smith and his team, the case will be brought forward by a judge. The family of the victim has taken separate action against the hospital, and has received an undisclosed settlement from the hospital, in addition to any funds that they may receive from the malpractice suit they are bringing against Smith, which is set to move forward in early 2014.
Physician Responsibility and Dangerous Drugs
The case against Smith seems to be fairly strong, and it comes at a time when medical boards across the country are acting with less and less tolerance when it comes to responsible dispensing of dangerous drugs like Oxycontin. It is common knowledge among the medical community that Oxycontin is a highly dangerous drug, that should be prescribed only with extreme care. Oxycontin is very addictive and many doctors believe that patients with a history of chemical dependency should generally not be prescribed the drug at all. It is the responsibility of the doctor issuing orders for the drug to monitor their patient and to make sure that use of the drug does not become dangerous or deadly.
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Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.