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Calif. Board Reinstates Doctor’s License With Fatal Results

 This is one of our editors' picks from our ongoing roundup of Investigations Elsewhere.

The Orange County Register gives a rundown on a California doctor whom the state has accused of negligence after one of his patients died during an abortion. But what sets this case apart is that the doctor had already lost his license to practice medicine in 2002 – after facing a litany of allegations – and then got it reinstated five years later. This, apparently, is far from unusual: According to the California Medical Board, half of the doctors seeking to get lost licenses reinstated this past fiscal year were successful.

In the case of Dr. Andrew Rutland, the board’s decision to give him back his license had disastrous results. Rutland is accused of administering an anesthetic to his patient "without knowledge of the safe dosage range or maximum safe dose." An autopsy determined that the anesthetic triggered the patient’s fatal heart attack.

A spokeswoman for the board, Candis Cohen, said that Rutland’s case was rare. "Usually after a license revocation, if they petition successfully and have been reinstated, they are more compliant with the law." And in order to get a license reinstated, doctors must prove that they have been rehabilitated and are fit to practice.

But the original allegations against Rutland were significant. He gave up his license “after a two-year medical board investigation into the deaths of two babies, as well as allegations that he performed unnecessary hysterectomies, lied to patients and had sex with a patient in his office,” according to the Register. He admitted to negligence only for the death of one baby.

Rutland didn’t respond to a message left by the paper, and his lawyer declined to comment until after today’s hearing.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger demanded sweeping reform of all state health care boards in August after ProPublica’s Tracy Weber and Charles Ornstein reported with the Los Angeles Times on numerous problems within the state’s nursing board.

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