On May 13, 2016, Dr. Daniel Susott finally had his license to practice medicine in Hawaii revoked when the decision by the Hawaii Medical Board was filed and posted. The action came 2-1/2 years after California authorities stripped Susott of his license to practice in that state, and two months after the Medical Board adopted its proposed order in the case and cited the need “to handle this matter expeditiously.”
Susott was one of those featured in a Honolulu Star-Advertiser series last year on issues surrounding the discipline of physicians.
In November 2013 California revoked Susott’s license for gross incompetence, unprofessional conduct and dishonesty after investigators discovered he was recommending medical marijuana without adequately examining patients or taking medical histories, according to Medical Board of California documents. He sometimes approved medical marijuana from Hawaii, even though the patients were in California, the records said.
At one medical marijuana event in the Bay Area, Susott saw 254 patients over two days, checked hearts and lungs by looking at the patients and recommended marijuana in all cases, the records show.
After his California license was revoked and while a DCCA investigation was pending, Susott continued to practice on Oahu, and his prescribing activities attracted the attention of state narcotics enforcement authorities, according to court records.
In seeking court permission for a search warrant, an agent with the Department of Public Safety in July said he believed Susott had violated laws related to the prescribing of controlled substances, according to the court documents. The agent cited several cases from earlier this year.
DCCA acknowledged a pending licensing complaint against Susott but declined comment. His Hawaii license still is listed as valid.
Two hearings were held on Susott’s case by the Office of Administrative Hearings, part of the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, to consider a recommendation to revoke Susott’s Hawaii license. Despite a variety of issues brought to the state’s attention during its investigation, including the narcotics issues cited by the Star-Advertiser and allegations of abuse previously raised publicly, the recommendation was based solely on Susott’s failure to comply with a requirement that Hawaii regulators be notified promptly when a doctor is Hawaii is subject to discipline elsewhere.
The hearings, in December 2015 and early January 2016, provided Susott an opportunity to present evidence on his own behalf.
“i’m a good doctor and have been licensed for 35 years,” Susott told the hearing officer. “I’ve never a patient complaint.”
He blamed his legal woes in California to his open support for the legalization of marijuana.
“Advocacy of cannabis as medicine got me in trouble over there,” he said, according to the official recording of the hearing.
Susott said he had over 1,200 patients, mostly in California and some in Washington, and that he was still making recommendations for use of marijuana in other states.
Hearings Officer David Karlen asked: “Have you ever turned down or not recommended cannabis for a patient?”
Susott answered: “No, because I believe it is safer than aspirin, it hasn’t killed anybody in 10,000 years.”
Susott also told the board he had hired an attorney in California and expected his medical license to be reinstated within a month.
Susott said needed additional time to collect additional documents, letters from supporters, and to have his reinstatement considered in California. However, Susott failed to appear at at the second hearing and did not submit any of the documents or testimonials he had cited earlier.
In the end, the medical board voted unanimously to revoke Susott’s license to practice.
Susott seemed resigned, saying that he would continue to try to help people even after losing his license to practice medicine.
“I didn’t go to medical school to get a medical license,” he told the hearing officer in December.
To Susott’s detractors, that isn’t comforting news.
Meanwhile, two bills that would have allowed the medical board to take quick reciprocal action when a physician faces discipline in other states. However, a Senate bill died after being sent over to the House, and HB2335 died in conference.
So it appears that doctors who have lost their right to practice in other states will continue to have a long grace period practicing in Hawaii until the slow administrative process finally catches up with them.