The Sportsmanship of Suspending Medical Doctors
Throwing Down the Gauntlet in Support of Michael Langan, M.D.
A Three Part Expose’
Anne Phelan-Adams, M.D.
Seeking to wean himself from pain medication for adult onset chicken-pox and shingles, Dr. Michael Langan of Massachusetts voluntarily came to “The Talbott Center” in College Park, Georgia with an exemplary record as a physician. Langan left Talbott diagnosed with alcohol dependence and cognitive as well as psychological dysfunction. He knew the diagnoses were spurious, but Dr. Langan also knew to continue practicing medicine, he would have to agree to whatever conditions imposed upon him as an alleged “impaired physician” by Physician Health Services, Inc. (PHS).
PHS is a Massachusetts-based, nonprofit Physician Health Program (PHP) and affiliate of Massachusetts’ physician disciplinary agency, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine (BORIM). In 2008, Dr. Langan reluctantly signed a five-year letter of agreement with PHS, stipulating that he completely abstain from alcohol and any other substances of potential abuse, take naltrexone to help prevent relapse, and submit to frequent random drug and alcohol testing. Apparently by letter of July 28, 2011, PHS Director Luis Sanchez advanced the contention to attorney Robert Harvey of BORIM’s “Physician Health & Compliance” division (PHC) that Dr. Langan violated the terms of its agreement with him by consuming alcohol. To continue practicing medicine, Langan was required to sign a new agreement extending his PHS contract for another two years, stipulating he attend three AA meetings each week, and submit to PHS signed proof of attending those meetings.
It seems by an October 23, 2012 letter, PHS Director Sanchez reported to attorney Harvey of PHC that Langan “repeatedly represented to PHS that he participated in required peer support group meetings that he did not, in fact, attend.” On February 6, 2013, BORIM, by its Chair, medical doctor Candace Lapidus Sloane, recounted as follows with regard to Dr. Langan:
At its meeting of February 6, 2013, the Board of Registration in Medicine (hereinafter ‘Board’) affirmed the Complaint Committee’s November 7, 2012 determination that the Licensee failed to comply with Paragraphs J and Y of his Letter of Agreement. This action was pursuant to the provisions of the Letter of Agreement accepted by the Board’s Complaint Committee on October 8, 2008 as amended on February 1, 2012.
After reviewing the evidence referenced in the January 24, 2013, December 21, 2012, December 12, 2012, November 27, 2012, and October 26, 2012 notices from the Board’s Physician Health & Compliance Manager, the Board immediately suspends the Licensee’s medical license.
All of the referenced “notices” follow the October 23, 2012 report by PHS Director Sanchez to PHC of Dr. Langan’s purported noncompliance. Of note, the October 23rd report follows what appears to be an October 4, 2012 report from the United States Drug Testing Lab (USDTL) to Sanchez, confirming the blood test results precipitating Dr. Langan’s obligation to attend weekly AA meetings and provide proof of his attendance were invalid.
PHS Director Sanchez acknowledged the invalidation of USDTL’s test results at issue in his December 11, 2012 letter advising attorney Harvey, PHC’s manager, of that fact. Yet, per BORIM’s February 6, 2013 findings – specifically its acknowledgement of related notices dated December 12th and 21st, 2012 as well as January 24th , 2013 – PHC continued trying to preclude Dr. Langan from practicing medicine. In fact, all discontent with Dr. Langan expressed by PHS, PHC, and BORIM as of the July 1, 2011 USDTL test result, was directly or indirectly premised on those results, the invalidation of which PHS Operation Director Linda Bresnahan apparently arranged to obscure.
Numbered paragraphs (8) – (13) of BORIM’s February 6, 2013 ORDER suspending Dr. Langan’s medical license state as follows:
(8) Physician Health Services, at the request of the Board, supplemented its October 23, 2012 report in a January 15, 2013 letter. In this letter, Physician Health Services reported that beginning in February 2012, the Licensee reported attending a physician support group at the Bournewood Hospital. Physician Health Services further reported that, on October 19, 2012, the Licensee admitted that he only began attending the physician group meetings at Bournewood Hospital on September 5, 2012.
(9) Among the additional documents submitted by Physician Health Services were copies of the Licensee’s self-reports of attendance at meetings. These self-reports indicate that the Licensee reported attendance at a physicians group meeting at Bournewood Hospital for the following dates: February 29, 2012; April 4, 2012; April 11, 2012; April 18, 2012; April 25, 2012; May 2, 2012; May 9, 2012; May 16, 2012; May 23, 2012; May 30, 2012; June 13, 2012; June 20, 2012; and June 27, 2012.
(10) Also included in the supplemental materials submitted by Physician Health Services was a January 15, 2013 communication to Physician Health Services that confirmed the Licensee’s attendance at the Bournewood Hospital meetings for only the following dates: September 5, 2012; September 12, 2012; September 19, 2012; September 26, 2012; and October 17, 2012 (sic)
(11) On January 9, 2012, the Licensee, through his legal representative, submitted a document to the Board’s Physician Health and Compliance Unit, which he claimed was the list of meetings he submitted to PHS to demonstrate his attendance at meetings. This document includes listings for a physician group meeting at Bournewood Hospital for the following dates: April 4, 2012; April 11, 2012; April 18, 2012; April 25, 2012; May 2, 2012; May 9, 2012; May 16, 2012; May 23, 2012; May 30, 2012; June 13, 2012; June 20, 2012; June 27, 2012; and October 3, 2012.
(12) In a January 16, 2013 email from the Licensee, which was submitted to the Physician Health and Compliance Unit by the Licensee’s legal representative, the Licensee states that he did not attend this group until September 5, 2012. In this email, the Licensee also states that he never informed Physician Health Services that he attended physician support group meetings at Bournewood Hospital until September 5, 2012 and that he never identified anyone named Melissa as his contact for this group meeting. These statements are contradictory to the documents referenced in items (9) and (11) above.
(13) The Licensee has not submitted any documentation that he attended all of the required meetings, and, in fact, the documentation that he has submitted evidences that he did not.
Missing is a determination that Dr. Langan did not in fact comply with PHS meeting requirements – only that there is evidence he did not. In fact, subsequent related court proceedings suggest the PHS, PHC, and BORIM have foregone even suggesting Dr. Langan failed to attend AA meetings as required.
In November of 2013, pursuant to a BORIM request, Dr. Langan underwent a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation by Dr. Patricia Recupero MD JD, a highly respected clinical and consultative forensic psychiatrist. Dr. Recupero did an extensive interview of Dr. Langan and reviewed his personal medical records, BORIM records, and drug test results. She concluded, with a medical degree of certainty, that (1) Dr. Langan was safe to return to medical practice without the need for supervision; (2) He had an excellent prognosis overall and a low risk of relapse and, finally, (3) that he had never had an alcohol use abuse or dependency problem. To date, the BORIM has never reconsidered suspending or reinstated Dr. Langan’s medical license despite his multiple requests that it do so. And the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has declined to compel the BORIM to act otherwise.
 After months of denying or seemingly ignoring Dr. Langan’s requests for information about its aberrant test result attributed to him, USDTL finally provided Langan what is called a “litigation packet” on December 12, 2011. Such packets are sets of forensic documents noting errors, if any, in disputed collection, testing, validation, and reporting processes, compiled in response to related, formal complaints. The USDTL/Langan litigation packet evidences that a collection date for the corresponding chain-of-custody form (CCF) was initially missing, and, at first, the form’s unique donor identification number did not match Dr. Langan’s identification number. Instead of the missing collection date and ostensibly inaccurate donor identification prompting immediate cancellation of the test results at issue, it appears that on July 19, 2011, PHS Director of Operations Linda Bresnahan, essentially asked USDTL to “update” the related CCF to include a July 1, 2011 collection date as well as Dr. Langan’s Donor ID picture and number. A copy of this FAX request that USDTL “(p)lease update the lab report to reflect that chain of custody was maintained” was included in the USDTL/Langan litigation packet.