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Doctors Behaving Badly: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Colorado, Part 2

Doctors Behaving Badly: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Colorado, Part 2

Picture of William Heisel

It wasn't until four years after the first allegations were brought against Dr. Michael E. Stoddard in Colorado that the curtain was pulled back for the patients to see what had been happening on stage.

The scene that the set, with Stoddard as the main player, was not pretty.

Stoddard had been prescribing addictive drugs to patients without properly examining them, the board wrote. Also, despite being fined by the medical board in 2005 for working without medical liability insurance, Stoddard worked without medical liability insurance in 2006 and 2007.

The documents show that the board was worried about Stoddard's prescribing practices and what the board called potential boundary violations – the enticingly vague language never ceases – back in June 2007. And the documents show that, despite these concerns, Stoddard managed to pass a health evaluation and had his first suspension order lifted in August 2007.

The documents also provide, for the first time, two facts that every patient should have known much earlier:

Respondent was trained as an orthopedic spine surgeon but has not performed any surgical procedure since 1996. He practices largely in the field of pain management.

Respondent is not certified in pain management and holds no formalized certification or training in pain management.

The board describes how Stoddard gave one patient so many painkiller injections that she ran out of usable veins. In another case, a patient ended up in the emergency room after too many painkiller and steroid injections.

During the course of his trigger point injections in the fall of 2006, Patient B experienced a weight gain of approximately 60 pounds in one month, mainly in the abdomen, developed a reddened moon face (round and enlarged), a hump on his upper back, extremely severe acne on his chest and striations on his abdomen.

Stoddard hired this patient's wife, who he also was giving heavy doses of drugs, as part of a "barter system whereby Patient C was trading her employment services at a rate of $10 per hour as credit toward Respondent's medical treatment of her husband," the board wrote.

Also, as with so many doctors caught overprescribing, Stoddard was also eventually caught sampling his own drugs.

At some time during the day on April 5, 2007, [Stoddard] treated Patients C and F in his office. At approximately 4:30 p.m., [Stoddard] was found slumped over his desk in a drowsy state. [Stoddard] was found in this state by two women: an individual who had come to office for a job interview and the wife of a patient who had come to the office to pick up a prescription. At the time [Stoddard] was found by paramedic Charlie Hayes on April 5, 2007, slumped over his desk in an obtunded state and with unintelligible speech, [Stoddard] was attempting to write a prescription.

Here for the job interview? The doctor might be a minute. He just blacked out.

When the paramedics arrived, Stoddard told them that he had popped two Valiums that morning, according to the medical board, hardly enough to knock someone out. But at the Sky Ridge Medical Center emergency room more details emerged. A urine test revealed multiple drugs, and Stoddard was forced to admit that he may also have taken codeine, the board said.

Stoddard later denied to the board that he had abused drugs and denied that he had done anything wrong in the way he treated his patients. He also said that all of the hard core drugs that the board declared had gone missing from his office had been stolen from a storage locker, an explanation that an administrative law judge found unconvincing.

The judge recommended that Stoddard's license be revoked in March 2009. In May, the board followed that advice, making Stoddard the only Colorado physician in the last year to actually lose his license, and one of only 12 doctors since 2005. Could there really only be 12 doctors in Colorado who have merited having their licenses revoked? With so much kept secret by the Colorado Board of Medical Examiners, patients, reporters and doctors are left guessing.

Final question: The Colorado Board of Medical Examiners' Web site says, "Consumer Protection is Our Mission." It also trumpets the fact that, after three years, the board has fully implemented the requirements of the state's 2007 by posting physician profiles on its site. The profile for Stoddard provides about him. In fact, the physician profiles seem to be yet another sideshow. To really find out if a doctor has done anything wrong in the past, consumers have to hunt around the medical board's umbrella agency, the Department of Regulatory Agencies, and run into a series of dead ends. A link to telling consumers they can leads to a page with no mention of doctors. The seemingly helpful "How do I " section makes no mention of doctors.

It's only deep within the online that one finally finds a link to the database that has the documents pertaining to Stoddard's discipline. This, combined with all the vague language and missing details, seems a far cry from transparent consumer protection.

Comments

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The Colorado Board has revoked licences of doctors who had done no Harm and very very well qualified and served the community well.

On the other hand many others who have caused harm have been off the hook again for political connections.

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It was an accident that I saw this article.., I did a double take because of the name & it's like a the darkness covered me with awful memories. My ex-husband was the man with too many steroid injections and I was the wife the BS Dr. hired. Our fate was sealed the day we met him. We were so young, only had been married 2 years. We had a 1 year old son. We just didn't know what signs to look for, what questions to ask. By the time we realized it was too late. I was so addicted to the pain meds. It eventually landed me with an 8 year DOC sentence. Although I am responsible for the choices that landed me there, Doctors like him are the path to hell. I if I seen someone trained, a real Dr, I would have never received that kind of medication. He had me on more pain medicine then a cancer patient one doctor told me. I can't stop crying right now thinking of those dark memories. I am thankful today I am think of them form a home I own, with my new husband my 13 year old son and my 2 year old son. Have not had a pain pill since the day I stepped foot in jail. I have CKD, with a side effect of kidney stones. At least 4 a month. I do not take 1 pain pill. My ex husband is alive and well. These injections gave him Cushing's Disease that turned into Addison and he's good now. He still has 8 tiger like scares across his stomach from the severe weight gain. It like we both have reminders of those years. We are best friends to this day ; we are both sober. I hope those article you wrote back then helped someone. Helped another dr from one bad judgement call.

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