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Florida doctor faces discipline for overmedicating dying man

A Hillsborough County physician faces fines and other disciplinary action by the Florida Board of Medicine for her alleged role in a friend's death. The doctor was accused of providing the man with medication that sped up his death.

The doctor told the board at a recent meeting in Tampa that the dying patient refused to leave his home to go a hospice. She says she agreed to spend the night at his home. The doctor told the board that the man, who had once worked in her office, "had no one else to take care of him." She said, "he was my friend and he lived very close. I could not say, ‘no, I can't do this.'"

If the physician agrees with the state medical board's decision, she will be fined $5,000 and be required to take remedial education courses regarding the dispensing of drugs. Her practice will also be required to undergo a risk assessment.

The doctor could have faced an even larger fine. However, the board members agreed that she was only trying to help the patient and did not intend to break the law or profit by her actions. The charges against her are inappropriate drug dispensing, medical malpractice and records violations.

While doctors may indeed be trying to assist a patient in making their final days and hours less painful and in carrying out the wishes of the patient, there can be legal complications. Surviving family members may feel that the actions taken constitute medical malpractice or other violations and may choose to pursue civil action.

Ideally, people discuss their end-of-life wishes with family members and, more importantly, detail them in legal documents. However, if family members believe that a physician did not handle a patient's care appropriately in his or her final days, they may be able to take civil legal action against medical provider.

Source: Health News Florida, "Board Disciplines Doctor in Fatal Overdose" Lottie Watts, Jun. 09, 2014

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