Medical board suspends Anchorage doctor

Posted: Sunday, December 22, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska State Medical Board has suspended an Anchorage doctor for six months following accusations that he was treating patients while under the influence of alcohol.

David Killebrew, 63, said he could accept signing a penalty agreement with the board and paying a $3,000 fine but opposes the suspension, saying he's been sober for four years.

Killebrew, an ears-nose-and-throat doctor, was suspended Friday.

His lawyer, Paul Stockler, said the suspension ''does nothing but put him out of business.''

Stockler said he planned to appeal the decision to the Superior Court.

The medical board voted 6-1 for the license suspension, but none of the members publicly discussed the decision.

Before issuing the sole ''no'' vote, board member Dr. Keith Brownsberger sought to postpone a decision until the next board meeting at the end of January. He said he hoped the delay would give the members more time to discuss the case. His motion failed.

Killebrew said the main drinking incident referenced by the medical board occurred in January 1999. He said he has been sober since then.

''There are a lot of patients that are glad I'm their doctor,'' he told the Anchorage Daily News. ''And I've helped them, and I'm proud of that.''

Dr. Mary Ann Foland, director of a program that has monitored Killebrew for alcohol abuse for almost a decade, verified his sobriety through regular meetings and random urine tests. Foland, a longtime Anchorage family practitioner, said she didn't believe any of Killebrew's patients were ever put at risk.

Foland wrote a letter on behalf of Killebrew and came to the board meeting Friday to give it to board members. But she was not given the chance to speak. Neither were Stockler nor his client, who also were present.

In the letter, Foland called the suspension ''unnecessarily harsh and punitive,'' as well as harmful to Killebrew's practice.

David Stebing, an administrative hearing officer for the state, referred to the 1999 incident in his recommendation that the board fine Killebrew and suspend his license.

On Jan. 30, 1999, Killebrew was in Kodiak preparing for ear surgery on a 3-year-old boy. Just before the procedure, the hospital administration received complaints from two patients and a staff member, saying Killebrew's breath smelled of alcohol.

The doctor later agreed to a blood test that determined he had been drinking before work. Killebrew later said he had drank ''five to six drinks, and they were big ones.''

When he stopped drinking during the early morning hours, he admitted he was drunk, according to Stebing's findings. The Kodiak hospital later suspended his privileges, the report said.

In 1989, Killebrew reached an agreement with the Montana Board of Medical Examiners that put his license on probation, required him to enter a treatment program and abstain from alcohol.

In 1991, Killebrew moved to Alaska and signed another agreement with this state's board. He was on probation until 1996 and had to participate at his own expense in the Physician Health Committee, the physician monitoring group that Foland oversees.

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