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Former ringside doctor loses argument that regulators were biased

A former boxing-ringside doctor lost his appeal of the revocation of his medical license when an Illinois appellate court in Chicago rejected the doctor's claim that a state regulatory official was biased. The doctor claimed that the official, formerly in charge of medical investigations and prosecutions, had requested free medical care while attending fights at which he was practicing. The appellate court ruled the doctor had failed to provide concrete evidence of the alleged bias

(Giacchino v. Department of Financial and Professional Regulation).

In 2010, department officials accused physician Joseph Giacchino of prescribing anti-anxiety drugs and painkillers for non-medical purposes, providing drugs to patients who intended to sell them, and trading drugs for sex with patients.

At Giacchino’s discipline hearing, one former patient testified that the doctor had demanded and received sexual favors in trade for prescriptions. The patient, who blamed her brother’s overdose death on prescriptions issued by Giacchino, had agreed to wear a wire during an visit to the doctor’s office, a tactic that successfully captured Giacchino in the act; at one point he told the patient to “take your pants off and get on the table.”

Several other violations of controlled substance policy were brought to light at the hearing: Giacchino had provided drugs to his patients on request, without legitimate purpose, had disregarded any safety or addiction precautions, and had post-dated prescriptions, a federal crime. 

Following the discipline hearing which contained specific testimony and recorded evidence a patient obtained by wearing a wire, the DFPR revoked Giacchino’s license. Giacchino appealed, and the case made its way to the Appellate Court of Illinois in Chicago, which issued a decision written by Justice Mary Rochford.

Giacchino used his appeal to accuse DFPR official John Laguttata, Chief of the Division’s Administrative Law Judges, of malfeasance in his case. The accusation went back to Giacchino’s time as a ringside doctor at boxing matches; Giacchino claimed that Laguttata, who at the time was in charge of investigation and prosecution of licensees, had requested free medical services from Giacchino.

Giacchino said that later, when he was being investigated by journalists with the Chicago Tribune, Laguttata had told Giacchino not to defend Giacchino’s license in any action, as the DFPR official was running for a judge position and did not want any bad press. Lagutatta’s position as Chief ALJ, during Giacchino’s discipline case, deprived him of a fair hearing, the doctor claimed.

Unfortunately for Giacchino, he had waited until his appeal to formally make his bias accusations against Lagutatta. The court, noting this, ruled that he had failed to raise the issue in a timely manner and dismissed the claim. Even if Giacchino had successfully argued the claim, Justice Rochford wrote, he had failed to provide any actual evidence of bias on Lagutatta’s part.

Giacchino also challenged the Department’s factual and legal interpretation as incorrect and argued that the revocation of his license was excessive, but he failed to convince the court to overturn the lower decisions on any of these grounds. With the appeal dismissed, the doctor’s license revocation remained in effect.