Doctor suspended for allowing teen to treat patient

Posted: Wednesday, July 19, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska State Medical Board has voted unanimously to suspend the license of an Anchorage physician for allegedly allowing a teenager to treat a boating accident victim at Wrangell General hospital.

The board voted to suspend Dr. Grace E. Shimotsu's license for 60 days for the 1994 incident. She must also pay a $6,000 civil fine and take an ethics course.

Shimotsu disputes the central facts of the case. She has the right to ask the medical board to review its decision and can appeal to Superior Court.

''It's probable that we will be asking the board to reconsider,'' said attorney James D. Gilmore, who represents Shimotsu.

Shimotsu is currently a family practice resident at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

The medical board vote came during an emergency session on July 7. The board accepted the recommendation of an administrative hearing officer who reviewed the evidence and interviewed the parties involved.

The incident took place on July 15, 1994, after a boat collision on the Stikine River near Wrangell. Boater Penny Allen was airlifted to Wrangell with trauma injuries to her head, a hand and ribs and a deep cut on her leg.

Shimotsu, the attending physician, met Allen at the emergency room along with Stephanie Herring, a 17-year-old student volunteer. Shimotsu and Herring's father were living together at the time. Mike Herring was administrator at the hospital.

Shimotsu did not dispute that she allowed the girl to cut off Allen's clothing, inflate a catheter in her bladder, place electrocardiogram monitoring tabs and position X-ray equipment over the patient, as well as wash the leg laceration, use a surgical instrument to pull sutures through Allen's flesh, tie and cut sutures, and write doctor's orders.

But Shimotsu maintained that she did not allow the teenager to inject the patient with local anesthesia or stitch the leg.

Allen and other witnesses, including a nurse, testified that they watched Herring inject and stitch the leg, and said Shimotsu left the room at one point while the girl was doing the suturing. Allen said she figured the girl was a medical student.

The hearing officer, David Stebing, said he was unconvinced by Shimotsu's denials. The chairwoman of the state medical board, Dr. Sarah Isto, said she found the evidence against Shimotsu convincing and felt the penalty was appropriate for the circumstances.

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