What We Can Learn from a Doctor Who Prescribed Marijuana to a 4-Year-Old

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It is incredibly rare that a California medical license is revoked. According to the LA Times, in the fiscal year 2018, 43 doctors lost their licenses but only seven licenses were revoked due to gross negligence. However, in a recent nationally-reported news story, the California medical board ordered that a doctor’s license be revoked for recommending medical marijuana cookies to control the temper tantrums of a 4-year-old boy.

Although marijuana is a legal medication in the state of California, the circumstances surrounding the case can teach doctors a lot about why they must be diligent in their commitment to responsible prescribing practices.

In 2012, the boy and his father visited a natural medicine physician, Dr. William Eidelman after the child had begun misbehaving in school. Eidelman had previously recommended cannabis to the child’s father for ADHD, and the father reported that he suspected his child also suffered from the disorder. According to the medical board, at the end of the appointment, Eidelman diagnosed the child with probable ADD/ADHD and bipolar disorder and recommended that he take small amounts of cannabis in cookies.

What may come as a surprise is that the board did not necessarily fault Eidelman for prescribing marijuana to a child as its basis for discipline.  Rather, the board determined that Eidelman was grossly negligent, incompetent and committed repeated acts of negligence surrounding his treatment and diagnosis of the boy – in other words,  the diagnosis and medical evaluation did not support the recommendation for marijuana. According to the board, Dr. Eidelman improperly diagnosed the boy without sufficient evidence, which effectively violated the standard of care. Since it could not be proven that the boy had either condition, the recommendation of marijuana as a treatment was considered improper.

After an unsuccessful appeal via Writ of Mandamus, the decision to revoke Dr. Eidelman’s license became effective in April 2019.

There is a lot that practicing physicians can learn from Dr. Eidelman’s story, the most important of which is that it is essential to have proper evidence to support any diagnoses and treatment. Regardless of the medication, you are prescribing, it is imperative that you thoroughly investigate the patient’s symptoms in addition to thoroughly recording all relevant notes in the patient’s chart.

If you are prescribing medical marijuana to minors, it is especially important to ensure that it is the right treatment for their specific case. Finally, when diagnosing children, do not rely on their parents’ beliefs about their conditions. As a doctor, you are the only person qualified to diagnose a patient. If you are unsure about a diagnosis, always consult with an experienced doctor or specialist.

We can see from this case that there are many complicated factors when determining what constitutes responsible care for a patient. If you are in danger of losing your license due to an accusation of negligence, the best thing you can do is contact a professional license defense attorney.

If you find yourself at risk of losing your license and need legal help, contact Attorney Scott J Harris for a free consultation at 323-794-0701.

This blog is meant to be informational. It is not meant to be all-encompassing legal advice. If you are facing a situation involving your professional license, seek counsel from a licensed attorney.