Medical board gives Oklahoma doc free pass to get high
Let's say you were caught doing drugs at work. Do you think your boss would give you a second chance? Would your employer even allow your boss the authority to give you a second chance?
If you are a state or federal employee in an agency with a zero tolerance policy, chances are good that you would be fired and possibly prevented from working for another branch of that government. If you work for a company that has a zero tolerance policy, especially those that receive federal funds, you may be out after one incident, too.
If you're a doctor in Oklahoma, though, feel free to light up, shoot up or drop as many pills as you choose. Second chances appear to be in ample supply.
Dr. Lynn D. Baggett has had his license suspended four times for substance abuse since 1989. He has had his license revoked twice for substance abuse. He has failed repeated drug tests. Yet, every time, the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision has restored his license.
In a 2008 action against Baggett, the board documents read like a parody of a disciplinary action being written by someone, say, who writes a column called "Doctors Behaving Badly."
Applicant's license had previously been suspended in 1989, 1990, 1992 and 2003, and had been revoked in 1994, 1997 and 2003. When Applicant's license was reinstated after the second revocation in 1997, the Board stated that if Applicant was ever revoked again, he could never apply for reinstatement. Applicant was subsequently revoked again in 2003. Defendant is now seeking reinstatement of his Oklahoma medical license."
Do you think the board gave it back to him or did it say, "What part of never didn't you understand?"
It gave Baggett his license back with the caveat that he be under probation for five years. This was old hat for Baggett. He had been on probation for most of his career. The board had taken many half measures like this, including limiting Baggett's practice to the state prison system and then to treating people with drug addictions. This has worked out well for him and he is now a drug addiction specialist working at Northwest Center for Behavioral Health in Fort Supply, Oklahoma. He's able to accept Medicare funding and has privileges at Western State Psychiatric Center. This is the same doctor who in 2003 was the subject of an emergency suspension order by the board because he "cannot practice medicine with a reasonable degree of safety, competency and skill sufficient to protect the public health, safety and welfare."
None of these records are available online. Oklahoma does provide a tidy timeline of its actions against Baggett, but the actual documents are kept in a vault until you make a formal public records request. The state gets points for responding quickly to requests, but the documents themselves are lacking in details, too.
Final question: Is it acceptable that doctors, as part of their punishment, are limited to serving in the state prison system? We saw this happen in Mississippi in September. Maybe prisoners don't deserve to be taken to the Mayo Clinic, but do we really believe as a society that they should be treated by doctors who have a history of abusing drugs?
Jenn Harris contributed to this report.
View this doctor and others on the Doctors Behaving Badly Google map.