Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2010 | 12:48 p.m.
A doctor whose prescriptions have been linked by federal officials to the deaths of at least eight people is suing the attorney representing the families of some of his deceased patients, claiming she defamed his name in stories published in the Las Vegas Sun.
Dr. Kevin Buckwalter, the subject of a lengthy Sun investigation, was stripped of his license to prescribe controlled substances in December 2008 by the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Sun has reported that Buckwalter prescribed what experts said were extremely high doses of narcotics — sometimes to drug addicts — without performing physical examinations.
Dallas attorney Kay Van Wey is representing the families of five people whose deaths were allegedly caused by Buckwalter, who went to medical school in the West Indies and is specialty-trained to practice family medicine.
The doctor’s lawsuit highlights one quote that Van Wey made in a Sun story: “These rogue doctors like Dr. Buckwalter ... have reaped enormous profits by using their prescription pads as a printing press to make money,” Van Wey said.
The starting point for a defamation case would be if the quote is untrue. Van Wey stands by her statement.
“This lawsuit is a shameful attempt to divert the focus from the doctor's wrongdoings and to intimidate those of us who are trying to help the victims,” Van Wey said. ”I will not be intimidated or deterred from our mission to expose the truth. I stand by my opinion that the evidence will show that (Buckwalter’s) practices were far outside the bounds of any normal or acceptable medical practice and that there was likely a financial motive involved.”
Buckwalter’s brother Bryce Buckwalter, who is his attorney, did not respond to requests for comment. In the complaint he wrote that his brother “is not a rogue doctor” and has never “intentionally” written prescriptions in an effort to “unlawfully” make a profit.
The lawsuit says that Van Wey’s statements are false and have damaged Buckwalter’s standing in the community.
The DEA also made strong statements about his practices when it took away his license to prescribe. At the time, the DEA said that allowing the Henderson physician to prescribe controlled substances “constitutes an imminent danger to public health and safety.”
Timothy Landrum, DEA special agent in charge of its Los Angeles division, said at the time in a statement about Buckwalter: “Unfortunately, there are a few doctors using their position of trust in our communities to prey on those who are vulnerable to the abuse of these drugs.”