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Barring former addict from anesthesiology, solo practice is reasonable

An order restoring an anesthesiologist's license but with heavy conditions—including a permanent ban on prescribing controlled substances—was both reasonable and necessary to protect the health of the public, the New York Supreme Court held April 4

(In the Matter of Jason Saporito v. State Board for Professional Medical Conduct).

The physician, Jason Saporito, is a board-certified anesthesiologist who was observed injecting himself with Fentanyl, a highly addictive opiate, while in an operating room awaiting a surgery in which he was to participate. After entering inpatient treatment and temporarily suspending his license to practice, in October 2009 Saporito applied to have his license restored.

Saporito had a lengthy history of illegal drug use. He became addicted to Fentanyl, which is considered far more addictive than other opiates including morphine, in 2006, during the last year of his residency, and the addiction progressed from home use to use at work prior to surgeries. To sustain the addiction, Saporito stole the drug from his co-workers, over- prescribed it for his own patients, and foraged for it in the operating rooms including the waste bins. 

A hearing committee of the state Board for Professional Medical Conduct agreed to restore the license. The catch was that Saporito could not practice in any specialty where dispensing of controlled substances was required, such as anesthesiology, pain management, emergency medicine, or critical care.

He was also banned from applying for a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Registration certificate for four years, prohibited from solo practice, and required to have an on-site supervisor.

In his appeal, Saporito challenged these conditions and produced witnesses who opined that he could be permitted to return to the practice of anesthesia. But each witness acknowledged the possibility of relapse.

The court took note that Saporito’s recovery period of two years was quite brief, and he had attended very few individual therapy sessions once he completed his initial inpatient treatment. Another cause for concern: Saporito’s ability and willingness to hide his addiction from his wife, colleagues, and patients, and the potential that he could still be abusing the drug if he had not been caught.

The court confirmed the board’s discipline action. Despite Saporito’s substantial efforts toward rehabilitation, there was a rational basis for the conditions the hearing committee of the medical board imposed on Saporito’s license, including the permanent restriction from practice specialties where the dispensing of controlled substances is required, the court found.