|PRISONER, DOCTOR WHO TREATED
HIM, BOTH HAD DRUG ARRESTS
Andrew A. Skolnick
Special To The Post-DispatchAnd Kim BellOf The
PUBLICATION: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
September 27, 1998
EDITION: FIVE STAR LIFT
Joseph Super was an auto mechanic. David S. White was a doctor. They
had one thing in common: Both got arrested for marijuana possession.
Super, caught with five pounds of marijuana, received a six-year
prison sentence in 1992 for his crime. Dr. White, a former specialist in
treating drug and alcohol addition, got two years' probation in 1990
for driving under the influence.
Missouri's medical licensing board revoked the doctor's license for
a week and put him on probation for five years.
doctor found new work at the Central Missouri Correctional Center, where
he eventually would treat Super. Super died several months later. His
widow claims in a wrongful death lawsuit that White was partly to blame.
White said the care was proper.
The case is scheduled for
trial in November in Kansas City.
White is one of nine prison
doctors in Missouri working for Correctional Medical Services who have
been disciplined by licensing boards. CMS has 35 physicians here. That
means nearly one in four of its doctors in Missouri have been
disciplined for misconduct. In contrast, about one in 40 of the nation's
689,000 doctors have been disciplined.
Police reports, court
documents, interviews and White's disciplinary agreement with the State
Board of Registration for the Healing Arts tell the following story:
In 1990, White was arrested in Ashland, Mo., for driving with
intoxicated and possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He pleaded
guilty to DWI and got probation.
The doctor signed an agreement
with the medical licensing board that he would not drink any alcoholic
beverage during his five-year probation. But on Sept. 28, 1994, Lake
Ozark police arrested him for drunken driving, a violation of his
medical probation. White's blood alcohol level was 0.21, more than
double Missouri's legal limit.
By that time, Super, who owned a
salvage yard near Columbia, was well into his second term. He
previously served two years for burglary and drug possession.
When Super entered prison in 1992, he tested negative for tuberculosis.
But a test by CMS two years later showed that his body had been exposed
to TB germs in prison. To prevent him fro developing and spreading the
disease to others, Super was ordered to begin six months of therapy with
Isoniazid, an antibiotic widely used to treat patients who test
Isoniazid packages warn doctors that the drug can
cause serious and even fatal liver damage and should not be given to
anyone with liver disease. That is probably why, on Nov. 28, 1994, CMS
ordered a liver test before staring Super on the drug. That test showed
he had an inflamed liver. On Dec. 2, 1994, he was started on Isoniazid
After a month on the drug, Super went to see White with
complaints of chronic pain in his right side. This was three months
after White's second DWI arrest. Super's pain came and went but got
worse when he coughed. White ordered no tests or follow-up. he allegedly
prescribed an over-the-counter medication for intestinal gas.
The warning label of Isoniazid tells doctors to closely monitor the
patient's side effects and monthly liver function tests. Super never got
those tests, then or after he was transferred to the Kansas City Honor
Center on Jan. 25, 1995. He complained to his caseworker that the
medication made him sick. She instructed him to keep taking it.
At the Swope Parkway Health Center, was continued on the medication,
allegedly without being examined.
Over the next five months,
Super's symptoms worsened. On June 5, 1995 after vomiting blood, he was
admitted to the University of Missouri-Columbia Hospital. He died 11
days later. An autopsy showed that Super, 42, died of cirrhosis of the
liver, gastrointestinal bleeding and complications.
wife, Karen, and daughter, Jacqueline Dawson, filed a wrongful death
suit in Jackson County against White, Correctional Medical Services and
"He was a very caring, very loving man," said Karen
Super, his wife of 11 years. "He liked to go boating and wouldn't fish,
because he didn't want to kill an animal."
White declined to
discuss the case. "In general," he said, "all of the treatment provided
the patient was well within commonly accepted standards of care."
On July 19, 1997, the medical licensing board disciplined White for
violating probation with the second DWI arrest. The board gave him
probation again - this time, for seven years, but made it retroactive to
his arrest on Sept. 24 1994.
White said his arrests "did not
occur at a time when I was seeing patients. It was off-hours. It has
absolutely no affect whatsoever on patient care." He said he is a good
physician and the public should feel safe with doctors like him, who
must undergo rigorous and random drug tests.
"As far as I am
concerned," White said, "physicians who are under the disciplinary
agreement with the board of healing arts are probably the most
certifiably unimpaired physicians in the state, because you know we're
not out there using drugs and alcohol."
White currently works
for CMS at the Tipton Correctional Center.
Caption: Photo Headshot - Dr. David White
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