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April 23, 2014

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Regulators to hear malpractice cases against Henderson doctor

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Dr. Kevin Buckwalter was recorded during a sworn deposition.

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A Henderson doctor linked by medical authorities to the deaths of eight patients after prescribing them narcotics may soon have four malpractice complaints adjudicated by state regulators.

After twice unsuccessfully suing the Board of Medical Examiners of the State of Nevada in 2010 and this year over its November 2008 suspension of his authority to prescribe controlled substances, Dr. Kevin Buckwalter and the board are finally on track for a hearing on the board’s four malpractice cases against him.

The proceedings before a board hearing officer could begin within a few months, said Jacob Hafter, one of Buckwalter’s attorneys.

Both sides blame the other for delays in resolving the four malpractice complaints.

Regardless of who is at fault, a move this week by the Board of Medical Examiners may have cleared the way for the case to get back on track.

The board on Tuesday agreed to lift the 2008 suspension of Buckwalter’s ability to prescribe, administer and dispense controlled substances.

This was pitched to the board by one of its attorneys as a procedural move aimed at avoiding having to have two hearings on the same issues: One a "post-deprivation" hearing and another a hearing on the underlying malpractice complaint.

Hafter had sought a post-deprivation hearing in hopes of proving the board lacked justification in 2008 to suspend Buckwalter’s drug-prescribing abilities – a suspension he says was made without notice and has deprived Buckwalter of his career.

Hafter has said that at most Buckwalter’s medical practice had record-keeping problems, there’s no evidence that Buckwalter harmed anyone, that Buckwalter was the victim of over-zealous newspaper coverage and that the Board of Medical Examiners used him as a scapegoat after the hepatitis crisis erupted in 2008 at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.

While lifting of the suspension was described as a procedural move, officials said it was warranted for other reasons favorable to Buckwalter.

"The committee (an investigative panel) feels that the lack of imminent threat to the public that now exists is pretty obvious. A long time has passed since the suspension date of Dr. Buckwalter’s prescribing abilities and privileges from November 2008 to today," Bradley Van Ry, deputy general counsel for the board, told the board.

"The public has been sufficiently protected over that interim," he said.

"Additionally there have been further investigations into many pending complaints that have shown a lack of merit or of which there was not sufficient evidence to proceed against Dr. Buckwalter on those," he said.

The upcoming hearing on the four malpractice complaints filed in 2008 "will sufficiently protect the public should a violation or multiple violations be found by Dr. Buckwalter," Van Ry said.

On top of that, board member Dr. Javaid Anwar noted Buckwalter has been taking continuing medical education courses.

"We all hope that we learn from the issues that we face in our life," Anwar added.

Despite the lifting of the suspension, it’s unlikely Buckwalter will be prescribing drugs anytime soon as the federal Drug Enforcement Administration also stripped Buckwalter of his prescribing authority in 2008, alleging that at least eight of his patients since 2005 had died of overdoses.

Hafter said he understands that Buckwalter is trying to get that federal suspension overturned.

Buckwalter, in the meantime, is asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a federal judge’s order this year backing the state medical board in its 2008 suspension of his ability to prescribe drugs.

In another lawsuit, Buckwalter sued the medical board in Clark County District Court this summer, asking that one of the board’s four malpractice complaints against him be dismissed because it dates to a patient’s treatment seven years ago and Buckwalter no longer has that patient’s records or a detailed recollection of the patient’s treatment.

Prosecution of that complaint by the board seven years after the treatment, Hafter charged in the lawsuit, violates an "implied statute of limitations."

"The board believes that it has unfettered ability to do what it believes, regardless of the Constitution or the law," the lawsuit charged. "Here, the board, in a bastardization of justice, continues to try to destroy Dr. Buckwalter’s ability to practice medicine over cases of documentation issues."

Attorneys for the board responded in a court filing that "while the board has attempted to expeditiously process the underlying administrative matter, the instant petition only seems to be a further pretext by the petitioner to delay the prosecution of the underlying formal hearing regarding the administrative complaint."

Judge Gloria Sturman dismissed the lawsuit, called a petition for judicial review, because the board’s refusal to dismiss the complaint involving Patient "D" was not a final decision on the complaint and therefore is not subject to appeal.

The state’s complaint against Buckwalter says that between May 2004 and December 2005, Buckwalter wrote the patient some 34 prescriptions and that Buckwalter’s "excessive prescribing of Oxycontin and Kadian to Patient D" contributed to the patient’s death.

Buckwalter, in the meantime, has been defending against lawsuits in Clark County District Court filed by families of five patients who died:

• Andrea Duncan

• Barbara Baile

• Staci Voyda

• Stephen Richard Holden

• Christopher Fisher

Three more pending lawsuits in the same court allege malpractice and were filed by:

• Therese Sanda (claims over-prescribing by Buckwalter left her addicted).

• Lisa Repolio (claims over-prescribing by Buckwalter left her addicted).

• Kathy Hankin (claims Buckwalter failed to tell her about an abnormality detected in a chest x-ray).

Buckwalter has denied wrongdoing in these cases and is countersuing the parents of Duncan, charging they abused the legal process with their lawsuit against him.

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  1. This is Malpractice :if a doctor fails to use a well known & effective treatment to the patients detriment.
    In discriminate prescribing to an addict .So happy that Mr. Anwar who lifted his suspension & the rest of the board members can sleep well at night knowing Dr Buckwalter is taking good boy classes.

  2. Personal responsiblity has to play a part in taking any medication. Blame Lee's Liquor stores for selling you the alcohol that you used in excess to become a drunk if you want to throw stones. Doctors who are in the pain management field grew by leaps and bounds after this - as they piled on when they were given a chance to be quoted by the Las Vegas Sun.
    There are plenty of patients that take medication responsibly, should they be considered addicts due to the medication that they take?
    It is sad that people could not control their own use. There are plenty of people that can. Let the Doctor get to trial like any other who faces malpractice suits. This is not the same situation as Desai and should not be treated in the same way.

  3. Lets see Mr. Kirkland take every 4 hours doing my calculations in my case it equals out two 29.2 pills a day , this is a 20 year old following doctors orders .How can everyone be wrong except you? We have all learned a lesson that this doctor doesn't know what planet he is on .Takes away from the really good doctors .

  4. If you think addiction is all about , drugs, and other irresistible vices, think again. And if you believe that a person has a choice whether or not to indulge in an addictive behavior, get over it. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) blew the whistle on these deeply held notions with its official release of a new document defining addiction as a chronic neurological disorder involving many brain functions, most notably a devastating imbalance in the so-called reward circuitry

  5. Futhermore alcohol is not a medication Kirkland ,& if the bartender serves the drunk too many drinks guess who is resposible ? Thats right the doctor needs to say
    No instead of pay the girl at the front desk $80.00.Here is your prescription , oh I don't have time to examine you by the way .

  6. With the all encompassing horrible legal environment, I don't know why anyone would ever go into medicine any more. If you don't give the patients their meds, they sue you for not treating them properly. If you give them meds, they sue you for making them addicts. If you request the tests that are necessary for diagnosing and miss something, they sue you for malpractice. If you request more tests than really needed in 99% of the cases, you get chastised for over use of facilities and being a money grubber by the media and the masses. After decades of practicing family medicine, I got fed up with it all and got out. Many of my friends are doing the same thing. Soon we'll have the worst medical care in the world in the US as none of the brightest and best will go into it any longer. You spend 11 or more years learning your profession, incur 6 figures of debt, and then get trashed by all sides and aggravated to death by insurers, lawyers, un-thankful patients, and the publicity hungry media. It's just not worth it any more. Forty years ago it was very well worth it in terms of job satisfaction, pride in your profession, and economic returns.

  7. There are so many great doctors in the US . Buckwalter is not one of them .You should not have given up so easy . Doctors work long hours & love their patients , you may have went into the medical field for the business reasons . Some docs work for free

  8. Casey Anthony also said she wasn't guilty .

  9. Northsider: I most certainly did not go into medicine for business reasons. Probably 15% of my patients were treated for much reduced prices or free. I also made house calls when necessary and volunteered my time at local school events. I also did not give up "easily". I spent 25 years in family medicine, but even the staunchest advocates of anything will eventually get worn down and decide to leave something. This doctor in Henderson sounds like a very bad practitioner and a pill pusher who needs to be tossed into the clink and lose his license. But you have to realize that all medical people are in a very bad spot with the millions of rules, regulations, laws, lawyers, insurance companies, economic pressures, paperwork, and ethical decisions every day. The stress is sometimes overwhelming and can get to the point of not being worth it any more.

  10. @ DrJCA1 ....I do agree with you about all your pressure of regulations & laws . But the doctor from Henderson didn't follow rules he did whatever the he## he wanted .He gave many primary care docs a horrible reputation .But why this man can not understand he was Wrong is behind belief .I know more then 10 people who have died from his irresponsible behavior .In my nieces case Staci Voyda she walked in to his office @ the age of 19 telling Dr. she was addicted to Oxy's to please help her get off (he was a doc in her insurance plan) Heppa laws did not help her family because she lived on her own with a roommate she worked fulltime, & even purchased a car making payments responsibly.Over the next 18 months he loaded her up with Xanax , Hydrocodone monthly the final straw was him giving her 310 Oxy's the weeks before she died .This was documented in a personal journal that I found in her closet after her passing how she hated what she did to her body & how she went to this dr for help & was excited to stay clean .He should have said NO to all scripts for her . In 25 days he prescribed her over 720 pills to a 119 lb 21 year old girl.Y would a doctor prescribe you the same damn thing that u were addicted to , I wish he could answer that but he threw all his records in the trash ?