Michael Jackson doctor's license still could be pulled if medical board acts quickly
A judge this week rejected an attempt by the state of California to temporarily ban Dr. Conrad Murray, the doctor charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson.
Now the ball is in the Medical Board of California's court. The board rightly sought to use the criminal justice system first to stop Murray from practicing.
But few reporters picked up on the fact that the criminal system isn't the only route.
Jack Leonard from the Los Angeles Times was one of the few, noting that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael E. Pastor "left open the possibility of reconsidering Murray's bail - including whether the doctor could practice medicine - after he hears testimony at a later preliminary hearing. Pastor also said his ruling did not prevent the medical board from seeking to suspend Murray's license at an administrative proceeding."
Pastor basically let Murray off on a technicality. As Leonard writes, "Pastor noted that another judge at Murray's arraignment in February had already considered what restrictions to place on the physician as part of his bail terms and had ordered him not to administer heavy sedatives or anesthetics. Pastor said the law did not allow him to alter Murray's bail terms unless there was a change in circumstances. The judge said nothing had changed since the arraignment."
The medical board is not bound by the rules surrounding bail arrangements. It can seek an interim suspension order (ISO) from an administrative law judge. Here's how the state Business and Professions Code describes an ISO:
Interim suspension orders may be issued by administrative law judges following an application by the Board when it appears that continued practice by a doctor of podiatric medicine would endanger the public health, safety, or welfare. The doctor of podiatric medicine is entitled to advance notice of such proceedings unless there is a showing that serious injury will result to the public before a hearing can be held. If an interim suspension order is issued, an accusation must be filed by the Board, a hearing conducted, and a decision issued by the administrative law judge on a very accelerated time frame. If these deadlines are not met, the interim suspension order is dissolved by operation of law.
The board doesn't use them as often as it should, and, in the past, the board has waited so long to seek an ISO that the administrative law judge has decided that the doctor must not have been a very serious threat or he would have warranted a faster response.
In Murray's case, the board could make a compelling claim that it exhausted its remedies in the criminal court before resorting to civil court. If a doctor using anesthesia simply to help a patient sleep isn't dangerous, I'm not sure what is.