COMMENTARY

Drug-Dealing Doctor Faces Up to 200 Years in Jail; More

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

February 20, 2014

In This Article

For Drug-Dealing Doctor, Up to 200 Years in Jail?

In late 2013, patient Courtney Canter brought a medical malpractice suit against California family physician Julio Gabriel Diaz, 64, known in some circles as the "Candy Man" for his willingness to supply his patients with a seemingly endless stream of controlled substances. In her suit, Canter claims that Diaz "got her addicted to drugs by overprescribing medications," according to an article that went national on December 23.[1] The action, filed in Santa Barbara Superior Court, also names as plaintiffs Walgreens, CVS Caremark, and Long's Drugs.

Canter isn't the only person allegedly injured by Diaz, who in early 2012 was arrested on a variety of federal drug trafficking charges. In their arrest affidavit, prosecutors identified 11 patients who had died of drug overdoses while under Diaz's care. The most recent death occurred after a male patient was said to have been prescribed more than 2000 pills in 6 weeks. But Diaz wasn't charged with these deaths; instead, he pleaded guilty to several lesser crimes, including prescribing drugs to women in exchange for sex.

The severity of her addiction, Canter says, became painfully apparent after she fell down a flight of stairs. By that point, she claims, she was so physically and psychologically impaired she was forced into "hospitalizations, detoxification, and rehabilitation."

Besides a pending medical malpractice case, the Candy Man also faces a new set of criminal charges, according to an Associated Press story appearing in the Huffington Post.[2] On January 9, Diaz pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts, although once again prosecutors have not brought charges against him in connection with the 11 patients who died from overdoses while under his care.

"You can achieve a just sentence by making the court aware of such deaths without necessarily charging or proving them," said Assistant US Attorney Ann Luotto Wolf. What Wolf seems to be implying here is that even when not part of the actual charges, background information that paints a certain picture of the defendant can lead the court to hand down a more severe sentence than it might otherwise do.

Diaz is scheduled to return to court for sentencing on June 2. If the judge throws the book at him, he could face up to 200 years in jail and up to $10 million in fines.

Verbal Consent Helps Defend Oregon Medical Center

For the parents of a boy who lost his testicles during a 2009 surgery at Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, January 23, 2014, was a crushing legal defeat. After 6 days of trial, jurors required just 6 hours to conclude that doctors had obtained the necessary parental consent before proceeding with a single surgery to relocate both of the boy's undescended testicles, points out a story on OregonLive.com, the Website of the Oregonian newspaper.[3]

In their suit, the plaintiffs had denied giving the medical center their written consent for a single-surgery procedure. Instead, they claimed, their written consent was for a 2-surgery procedure only, which their research convinced them would pose the smallest risk for their son losing his testicles.

But at trial, the medical center argued that surgeons "received the couple's verbal consent to use the technique that was in the best interests of the boy -- a technique that "could only be known once surgeons began operating and assessed the location of the testicles."

In siding with the medical center, jurors refused to award the $1.4 million that the plaintiffs had sought for both their son's medical expenses -- including the twice-monthly testosterone injections he will need, beginning at age 11 years, for the rest of his life -- and his later psychological trauma from such situations as gym locker rooms and moments of intimacy.

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