Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Court of Appeal Won’t Order Reinstatement Of Medical Doctor’s Unrestricted License
Says His Promise of Not Performing Surgeries Again Isn’t Enough In Light of His Having Negligently Caused Three Deaths
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday affirmed the decision of the trial court not to give a doctor back an unrestricted license to practice medicine, in light of his gross negligence in performing surgeries with three patients dying, even though he has promised not to perform any more surgeries.
In seeking termination of his probation, Dr. Sandy Witzling noted that he was fired from his new job as a medical records reviewer after Blue Cross discovered during an audit that his medical certificate was restricted.
Acting on a writ of administrative mandamus after the Medical Board declined to reinstate his unrestricted license, retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O’Brien, sitting on assignment, denied relief. He noted that the Medical Board took into account Witzling’s “previous surgical failings, resulting in patient death,” his “lack of surgical practice since 2010” and the inability to “vet his surgical skills.”
“On this basis, the Respondent reasoned that it could not issue an unrestricted license to a former surgeon who was no longer competent to perform surgery….Substantial evidence supports this conclusion, and the rationale is not a manifest abuse of discretion.”
Div. Two of the appeals court in Los Angeles affirmed in an unpublished opinion by Acting Presiding Justice Judith Ashmann-Gerst. She wrote:
“[A]s the Board found, because it has no statutory authority to issue a limited license to Dr. Witzling, its consumer protection mandate dictates that it cannot issue ‘a free and clear license’ where he has not rehabilitated his surgical skills and practice-related deficiencies. As the Board notes on appeal, ‘[t]erminating probation in this case means trusting [Dr. Witzling’s] assertion that he will not practice, and betting the public’s safety on it. The Board’s enforcement mechanisms only exist in tandem with active probation. [¶] Were it to terminate probation, the Board would be abrogating its principal statutory obligation to protect the public. It would be relying on a doctor, whose conduct caused at least three patient deaths, to protect the public by voluntarily refraining from the practice of medicine. Such a delegation of responsibility defeats the essential purpose of a regulatory agency.’ ”
The case is Witzling v. Medical Board of California, B277162.
John D. Harwell represented Witzling and Deputy Attorneys General Robert McKim Bell and Peggie Bradford Tarwater acted for the Medical Board.
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