Our Atlanta psychiatrist malpractice attorney recently read an alarming story about a former University of Florida psychiatry professor forced to give up his Florida medical licence last June. This case before the Board of Medicine concerned his involvement in the death of a patient, Alice Tomlinson, in 2010. The ruling also required that he agree to never reapply for a Florida medical license. The psychiatrist, Dr. Harold E. Smith, had already had his medical license suspended or revoked in several states, including Georgia, Arkansas, Virginia, and Tennessee. He has had several disciplinary actions brought against him over a span of more than 20 years.
The case of Dr. Smith demonstrates just how worrying it can be when doctors can avoid the damage of malpractice claims and bad professional conduct by moving between states, each of which has its own licensing structure. In addition to the state actions against him, Dr. Smith had also been subject to disciplinary action by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in 2011 that led to the revocation of his certificate to prescribe controlled substances due to his submitting false information. These disciplinary actions, which were all due to his problems with drugs and alcohol, ought to have warned of continuing misconduct on the part of Dr. Smith.
The University of Florida Health Shands Hospital hired Dr. Smith one year ago as an assistant professor in the College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. He also treated patients with alcohol and drug addiction at the Florida Recovery Center. At the time of his hiring, he already faced the complaint over Ms. Tomlinson’s death, who had been prescribed Oxycontin despite showing signs of oversedation. She was discovered on the floor, unresponsive, and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. At the time of Ms. Tomlinson’s death, Dr. Smith had two prior actions against him in Florida, one was for improperly prescribing Oxycontin to family members, the other was for using crack cocaine and opioids. The University of Florida has refused to discuss what they knew about Dr. Smith’s problems with drug and alcohol abuse prior to his hiring. Dr. Smith was put on unpaid leave in December, and then resigned in May.