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Judge's Ruling Allows Lodi Doctor Who Used Inhalants To Practice

LODI (CBS13) - The California Medical Board says a Lodi doctor admitted to using mood-altering inhalants and masturbating in his office, but an administrative law judge has reinstated his license to practice.

Just three months after Dr. Peter G. Hickox's license was suspended, he could very well be examining a new patient.

An administrative law judge temporarily reversed the full suspension order this week, allowing Hickox to treat patients during office visits, though he can't deliver babies or perform surgeries and can't work on call.

Dr. Sidney Wolfe with the Washington, D.C.-based Health Research Group has been a long-time critic of what he calls the California Medical Board's lax approach to getting rid of doctors who pose a harm to patients. But this time, Wolfe says even when the board tried to do the right thing, the system failed.

"I think it's just the wrong decision," he said of the judge's ruling. "If he's too dangerous to deliver babies, he may well be too dangerous to continue to practice and see patients in his office.

"I do not understand why they did not allow the board to take the action they wanted, which was to suspend his license."

The board's neurology evaluation found the doctor demonstrated "addictive behavior, substantially impaired judgment, compromising his ability to safely and effectively practice medicine."

He was taking a drug known as "poppers" at work for at least a year.

The evaluating doctor also recommended "his license should be suspended immediately before he causes serious injury to himself or others."

But Hickox supplied his own psychological evaluations, which stated he is not addicted to inhalants.

"I can't tell you how many times I've seen occasions where the medical board wants to suspend the doctor, but the doctor comes in with lawyers and so forth and what you see is suspension stayed," Wolfe said.

The judge's ruling is temporary. A final hearing on Hickox's license has not been scheduled yet.

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