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Board targets doctor's license

Lawyer for transplant surgeon, who will face trial, defends the drug doses prescribed to a potential organ donor.

June 06, 2008|Rong-Gong Lin II | Times Staff Writer

The Medical Board of California is seeking to revoke or suspend the license of a San Francisco transplant surgeon accused of administering substantial quantities of pain medication to a prospective organ donor.

Dr. Hootan Roozrokh also faces trial in October on a felony charge of dependent adult abuse in the death of 25-year-old Ruben Navarro, who suffered from a wasting neurological condition and was comatose.

Roozrokh was the lead transplant physician who had gone to a San Luis Obispo hospital in 2006 to remove Navarro's organs upon his death, according to the medical board's complaint.

The complaint, dated May 16, accused Roozrokh of being in the operating room before Navarro's death and of "actively monitoring the patient's vital signs for a determination of death."

Under state law, transplant doctors cannot direct the care of organ donors before they are declared dead.

Navarro survived more than seven hours after he was removed from life support and given the drugs.

By that time, his organs were no longer viable and could not be recovered.

The medical board also accused Roozrokh of ordering staff to give Navarro pain and anxiety medication even though he did not have staff privileges at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center.

Without such privileges, he "was therefore not authorized to prescribe, obtain and administer" a total of 200 milligrams of the narcotic morphine and 80 milligrams of the sedative Ativan given to Navarro, the complaint said.

Those doses were many times normal, experts have told The Times.

The board also accused Roozrokh of using "inappropriate and unprofessional terminology" when he allegedly asked nurses "whether the patient had been given his 'candy,' apparently referring to pain medications."

A lawyer representing Roozrokh, M. Gerald Schwartzbach, said, "I do not believe Dr. Roozrokh did anything that was unethical, illegal, immoral or medically inappropriate."

At a court hearing in February, Schwartzbach argued that his client acted properly when he ordered the pain and anxiety medication.

Navarro "was going to die shortly, whether in minutes or in hours," and "in that situation, you err on the side of ensuring that he's pain-free," he said.

He also said Navarro may have needed large dosages because he had lived with pain and pain treatments for so long.

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ron.lin@ latimes.com

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