Horror Stories of Doctors Who Showed Up Drunk to the Job
Surgery is a terrifying concept, and serious visits to the doctor aren’t much more reassuring. You expect your health care professional to come prepared, calm your anxieties, and, of course, be sober.
We don’t recommend you cancel your next appointment, but these horror stories might make you want to. These doctors and surgeons showed up drunk or high on the job and impacted their patients’ lives significantly. Plus, we reveal what we know about the president’s physician and his recent malpractice suit (page 11).
1. Dr. Theodore Gerstle
The Lexington, KY plastic surgeon was arrested in January 2018 on public intoxication charges. He showed up to operate at Baptist Health Lexington where he occasionally performed special procedures and benefitted from staff privileges.
The Lexington Herald Leader reported Gerstle left on foot. Authorities found him running away in 30-degree weather in just his scrubs and doctor’s coat. The hospital didn’t release information about the surgery Gerstle was scheduled to perform, but he reportedly specializes in treating migraine headaches.
Next: Any kind of high can impact a doctor’s performance
2. Dr. John Keith Krebs
The Ohio Center for Orthopedics surgeon showed up to work impaired in 2009 due to “habitual or excessive use or abuse of drugs, alcohol, or other substances,” according to the Ohio Licence Center’s records. The court suspended his medical license and put him on probation.
As of April 2016, Krebs’s probation was terminated as a result of his request for release.
Next: A drunk plastic surgeon left a woman’s body mutilated.
3. Dr. West of Sacramento
Tina Minisian went into surgery for what her doctor told her would be a “routine” total body lift. The seriously complicated procedure proved unnecessary compared to the tummy tuck she actually wanted. “I went ahead with the surgery because I believed and trusted Dr. West’s opinion; especially because he was a doctor, the expert,” Minisian wrote.
Minisian called the operation a “total abomination and mutilation” of her body. West shut down his practice within four months of her surgery and Minisian learned of his alcohol abuse problems, bankrupt finances, and that he had multiple malpractice suits already issued against him.
4. Dr. Joseph Savage
The New Hampshire physician showed up to work in 2012 with a .186 BAC, well above the legal driving limit. Hospital security found Savage asleep in his car at the same time he was scheduled to see patients. He was arrested on the scene due to his appearance.
The hospital’s general counsel said they made sure Dr. Savage wouldn’t see any patients that day after learning of the incident. A New Hampshire publication reported Savage had past issues with alcohol use and was being monitored by the New Hampshire Professionals’ Health Program.
Next: He showed up to work and napped on the job.
5. Dr. Gregory Gibbons
The licensed Texas emergency room physician showed up to work “acting strangely” before he was found passed out in the doctors’ sleep room. The Texas Licensing Board temporarily suspended his license after a blood sample revealed his concerning BAC of .293, or seriously impaired.
Next: We wouldn’t want someone half-awake putting us to sleep.
6. Dr. John Valentine
The Denver anesthesiologist’s license was suspended in Nov. 2009. In Feb. 2010 he was treating patients while reportedly drunk, sexually harassing a co-worker, and impacting the 14 metro area medical facilities he practiced in.
His coworker, surgical technician Robert Record, sued Dr. Valentine for sexual harassment. “Dr. Valentine walked up to me and called me his ‘Midtown boyfriend’ and asked if he could kiss me,” the record reportedly stated. “He was visibly intoxicated and smelled of alcohol.”
Next: Don’t drink and drill.
7. Dr. Gregory Bellotti
The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area dentist saw seven patients the morning he was fired. A police complaint revealed that his staff called 911 when they found Bellotti unresponsive in the office following his lunch break.
Dr. Bellottie was “immediately terminated” and the Professional Dental Alliance released in a statement that they were “shocked and saddened” by the incident. The paramedics diagnosed him with alcohol poisoning and disclosed that he consumed nearly a bottle of vodka.
Next: He wrote fake prescriptions and took them himself
8. Dr. Peter Grinspoon
The Massachusetts-based physician has been in recovery since 2007 for a drug addiction. He wrote that up to 15% of doctors are drug addicts in an op-ed detailing his addiction. He denied his addiction to prescription opiates for years until the DEA and state police sat down in his office.
Grinspoon was charged with three felony counts of fraudulent prescribing. “My access to prescription medications was virtually unlimited,” he wrote, “And I foolishly made illegal use of my own prescription pad.”
Next: This doctor bragged about happy hour then allegedly messed up a C-section
9. Dr. Frank DeLee
When Shree Sims took her daughter, Alex, to the hospital to give birth, she likely expected it to be one of the happiest days of her life. Now, all she remembers is her intoxicated Ob-Gyn and the pain he caused Alex.
Alex told Us Weekly that a video showed Dr. DeLee talking about the emptying bar he left, discussing what booze he drank (tequila), and telling Alex, “I bet you wish your doctor was in town.” The family is suing DeLee for Alex’s son, Jared’s, Erb’s palsy and nerve damage which they claim are due to DeLee’s alleged negligence.
Next: This nurse drank while on-call
10. Richard J. Pieri
Pieri, a nurse at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, showed up to assist in a surgery after a night of drinking. The Wilkes-Barre, Pa., police say Pieri admitted he drank nearly five beers at a casino and claimed he forgot he was on-call.
Next: Trump’s pick for secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs has a history of alcohol abuse.
11. Dr. Ronny L. Jackson
The White House physician faces allegations of drinking on the job. He remains President Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs and has served as a White House physician since 2006.
Sources claim Jackson provided a “large supply” of Percocet to a White House staff member, wrote himself prescriptions, and wrecked a government vehicle after drinking too much at a Secret Service going away party.
Next: He numbed himself with alcohol then administered the patient’s novocaine.
12. Dr. Robert Garelick
Long Island dentist Robert Garelickt administered Novocain to the wrong side of a patient’s mouth. The police arrested in his office and removed from the premises in handcuffs. Dr. Garelick allegedly smelled like alcohol as well.
“I observed Dr. Garelick looking for cavities in the right side of the patient’s mouth, but the cavities were in the left side,” the hygienist told the police. “I pointed this out to the doctor and that’s when he ordered more Novocain for the patient … So now, he basically numbed the whole patient’s mouth.”
Next: He practiced while taking prescription narcotics.
13. Dr. Larry
A physician teaching doctors recounted the terrifying tale of Larry, a trainee he recommended shouldn’t be allowed to pass through the Burbank hospital. Larry passed, set up a general practice, and became a “go-to local for scoring prescription narcotics,” the physician recounted.
His patients and those he encountered alike thought he might be high and Larry ended up under DEA surveillance when he reportedly killed himself.
Next: Some say doctors shouldn’t even drink the night before surgery.
14. It’s dangerous for doctors to even be hungover on the job
The Los Angeles Times reported it’s dangerous for a doctor to be hungover or even perform surgery after a night of drinking without hangover symptoms.
Researchers studied multiple doctors’ performances after both a sober night and a drunk one. While they couldn’t conclude exactly how long doctors should refrain from drinking before going into surgery, they made a simple observation: given challenging modern surgical techniques, surgeons should consider abstaining from drinking the night before operating.
Next: The good news? There are centers treat healthcare professionals
15. Help for addicted doctors
The Physician Health Program seeks to assist doctors with addiction in getting help. They recognize how difficult it is for a doctor to ask for help and the risk it poses to their professional career and medical license.
There are special programs designed for doctors with alcohol and drug addictions as well as alcohol rehab centers. Some centers specifically treat doctors and get them back to work.
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