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December 21, 2014

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Looking in on: Health:

Health care bill’s word count turns Gibbons off

He’s against it for his usual reasons, too, he tells execs

Gov. Jim Gibbons

Gov. Jim Gibbons

Gov. Jim Gibbons was both predictable and perplexing during a speech Tuesday to health care executives at the second annual Nevada Health Care Forum.

Gibbons opened the daylong summit with a 20-minute speech in which he, predictably given his political leanings, bemoaned the federal government’s involvement in reforming health care. The debate in Congress is worrisome, he said, because “I have a hard time remembering when anything as important as health care was ever improved by having the federal government involved.”

The federal government does not belong “in your medicine cabinet, in the operating room, in the discussions you have with your health care providers,” Gibbons said.

That was the predictable part, coming from a conservative Republican.

The perplexing bit of the speech came when Gibbons complained that the latest proposed health care bill was more than 1,500 pages.

“What should be a simple process is turning out to be not so simple,” Gibbons said. “... Now how in the heck is anybody going to be able to look at 1,500 pages and assume that a simple process of health care reform is going to be simple?”

Well, nobody said health care reform was going to be simple. In fact, quite the opposite. The stakeholders — doctors, drug and device makers, hospitals, insurance companies and nurses — are entrenched, well-funded and engaged in the battle. Meaning, it was never going to be easy and everyone knew it.

•••

Dr. Kevin Buckwalter faces yet another lawsuit filed by a widow of a patient who overdosed on pills he prescribed, bringing the total number of lawsuits to five.

Dr. Buckwalter, In His Own Words

A Deposition of Dr. Buckwalter.

Buckwalter, a Henderson physician who was the subject of a Sun investigation in 2008, is accused of prescribing large doses of addictive and potentially dangerous narcotics and anti-anxiety medications to Stephen Richard Holden, leading to his addiction and overdose death, according to the complaint, filed Oct. 14 in Clark County District Court.

Holden’s medical record included hypertension, prostate cancer, bipolar disease, migraines, alcoholism and drug addiction, the lawsuit said. Buckwalter’s records were illegible, according to pain specialist Dr. Andrea Trescot, the plaintiff’s expert, but “there was no legible reason in ... the records to justify the use of any opioids or anti-anxiety medications.”

In December 2004 Buckwalter, a family doctor, began prescribing Holden about 40 milligrams a day of Percoset, a brand-name drug that includes oxycodone. By 2007 the doses had been increased to 80 mg of OxyContin three times a day and 30 mg of oxycodone six times a day — a total of 480 mg of oxycodone a day.

There was no justification in the medical records for the extremely high doses of narcotics, Trescot wrote in her declaration.

“This escalation of opioids reflects the opioid addiction that Dr. Buckwalter created,” Trescot wrote.

Medical records show that Holden went to drug and alcohol rehabilitation in March 2008 but continued to receive from Buckwalter prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications as well as butalbital, a barbituate, and codeine, a narcotic, the lawsuit said.

Holden’s last visit to Buckwalter was July 29, 2008, eight days before he died. He overdosed on oxycodone, codeine and butalbital, Trescot said.

Buckwalter committed malpractice by creating Holden’s addiction and then continuing to prescribe large doses of addictive and dangerous drugs even after his drug detoxification, Trescot wrote.

Buckwalter faces four other lawsuits from people who claim their loved ones died as a result of his incompetence. The Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners and Drug Enforcement Administration have taken away his license to prescribe controlled substances, and he is not currently practicing medicine.

Bryce Buckwalter, the doctor’s brother and attorney, said patient privacy laws prevent him from discussing the care provided to Holden. He said they are saddened by his death and look forward to “aggressively” defending the case, as well as the other cases against Buckwalter.

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