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Henderson doctor linked to patient deaths sues medical board

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Dr. Kevin Buckwalter was recorded during a sworn deposition.

Updated Friday, Nov. 19, 2010 | 6:37 p.m.

Dr. Buckwalter, In His Own Words

A Deposition of Dr. Buckwalter.

A Henderson doctor linked by medical authorities to the deaths of eight patients filed suit Friday against the State Board of Medical Examiners in a bid to reverse the board's order blocking his ability to prescribe controlled substances.

Dr. Kevin Buckwalter filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, charging his due process rights have been violated because the board has failed to detail all the allegations against him or schedule a hearing so he can defend himself.

A message for comment was left with the board.

The board two years ago suspended Buckwalter's authority to prescribe controlled substances and he's a defendant in eight negligence lawsuits filed in Clark County District Court since April 2009.

The Drug Enforcement Administration also blocked his authority to prescribe drugs after a Las Vegas Sun investigation linked his practice to multiple patient deaths. The oversight agencies linked Buckwalter to eight fatalities.

But in his lawsuit Friday, filed by Las Vegas lawyers Jacob Hafter and Michael Naethe, Buckwalter charged that more than two years after the suspension, he "still has not received the hearing which he is entitled to'' under Nevada law.

"In Nevada, a physician’s license to practice medicine has been held to be a protected property right, which cannot be altered or limited without the adequate amount of due process,'' charged the suit, which seeks an injunction forcing the board to withdraw its suspension.

The board found Buckwalter "poses a threat to the health and safety of patients he sees and treats, or may see and treat, as well as the public in general."

But Buckwalter complained in his lawsuit that numerous records were reviewed by investigators, but the suspension was "based upon the care rendered to just the four patients over a five-year period of time'' whose cases formed the basis for the allegations in the 23-page complaint.

Attorneys for Buckwalter also complained in the lawsuit that after Buckwalter answered the administrative complaint in January, Hafter was told that there were new allegations of violations that were not included in the initial complaint but were pending against Buckwalter. The suit says that through this month, Buckwalter still hasn't been told what the new allegations are.

Records show the suspension was for Buckwalter:

• Violating state code that defines malpractice as "the failure of a physician, in treating a patient, to use the reasonable care, skill, or knowledge ordinarily used under similar circumstances."

• Violating another code for the "failure to maintain timely, legible, accurate and complete medical records relating to the diagnosis, treatment and care of a patient."

• Violating a code by engaging "in the practice of writing prescriptions for controlled substances to treat acute pain or chronic pain in a manner that deviates from the guidelines set forth in the Model Guidelines for the Use of Controlled Substances for the Treatment of Pain."

But in his lawsuit Friday, Buckwalter said the state board "falsely created an emergency" in suspending his license without giving him a chance to defend himself.

"The board's expert stated that the 'lack of documentation makes it nearly impossible to assess and analyze Dr. Buckwalter’s medical decision making regarding the controlled substance prescriptions he wrote for the patients,'" the lawsuit says. "The board’s expert concluded that the 'vague, haphazard and illegible documentation' is the source of Dr. Buckwalter’s alleged failure to adhere to 'expected medical standard of care as it relates to prescribing controlled substances.'"

"Over seven months passed between the last allegation of malpractice in the administrative complaint and the summary suspension. Failure to keep proper medical records is not an emergency which requires an emergency action to protect the health and safety of the public," the suit charged.

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