A Waterville physician has been suspended from practice by a state medical board for up to 450 days.

The state Board of Osteopathic Licensure imposed the sanction on Dr. Paul Gosselin after finding he had violated board rules. Gosselin was found, among other things, to have practiced medicine after ingesting drugs and had prescribed medicines for himself in “circumstances that did not warrant self-treatment.”

Gosselin, an osteopath, first was licensed in 1999 and has a practice on College Avenue in Waterville.

His attorney, Eric Mehnert, of Bangor, said Wednesday that the Licensure Board’s July 17 decision has been appealed to Kennebec County Superior Court.

“What we’d really like is a new trial and a trial before an impartial body, where the rules of evidence have to be followed,” Mehnert said.

Mehnert noted the fact that the assistant attorney general representing the state in the decision also is counsel to the Board of Osteopathic Licensure. He said there is a due process issue when the assistant attorney general who advises the board prosecutes action before the board.

“I’ve had a number of these cases where the board turns to their attorney (and says) ‘Can I ask this question?’ or ‘Can I do this?'” Mehnert said. “As you can imagine, as defense counsel, I kind of feel the cards are stacked against me walking in the door.”

According to state records, Gosselin had been before the board on disciplinary matters twice previously.

In 2002, he agreed that he had demonstrated unprofessional conduct by calling pharmacies, pretending to be his own physician’s assistant and ordering prescription drugs and by responding to an emergency call from an intensive care unit when not on call and after consuming alcoholic beverages in October 1999, which was three months after he first was licensed to practice medicine in Maine.

He received another warning in June 2011. He was ordered to take a course in professional boundaries and undergo a mental examination in 2011 after allegations of unprofessional conduct by treating a family member not allowed by board rules and of sexual misconduct with a patient.

In July 2012, the board ruled that Gosselin had complied with the sanctions in that case, including the requirement for a mental evaluation and the requirement that he enroll in a course on professional boundaries. The board issued a final order in that case, stating that it was satisfied that he “does not pose a threat of harm to the public.”

Nine months later, Gosselin was charged with operating under the influence of drugs after a traffic accident in Fairfield. He ultimately agreed to a deferred disposition in which he participated in a substance abuse program and had the charge reduced to driving to endanger. Gosselin said he had experienced medical problems at the time of the accident. The board found that his testimony with respect to his activities on the date of the accident was “not credible.”

In the most recent case, the board’s order that Gosselin’s license be suspended 450 days can be reduced to a 90-day term followed by five years’ probation provided that Gosselin undergoes substance abuse and mental health evaluations and submits a plan to respond to the results of the assessment. During the probation period, Gosselin would be required to report monthly that he is following the treatment plan.

Mehnert claimed the decision poses a problem, saying because Gosselin’s license is up for renewal in May 2015 and a 450-day suspension would run beyond his license expiration date, the penalty is effectively a revocation of his license. If the suspension is treated as revocation of his license, Gosselin would have a right to a new hearing before a judge, Mehnert said. The hearing would be de novo, which means the judge would not be bound by the facts as established by the board.

“They claim he does not have the right to a hearing,” Mehnert said.

The only way Gosselin would be allowed a trial before a judge, Mehnert said, is if his license is revoked.

The Licensure Board decided by a 5-3 vote that Gosselin committed unprofessional conduct by answering “no” to a question on his renewal application asking if, since his last application, he had been arrested or convicted of anything other than a minor traffic violation.

“He answered quite truthfully,” Mehnert said. “He had not been arrested.”

DOCTOR SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Doug Dunbar, legislative liaison in the office of the commissioner of the state Department of Professional & Financial Regulation, said it is not common for the Board of Osteopathic Licensure to deal with cases involving substance abuse and abuse issues among practitioners.

“A quick check of records indicates that there have been approximately five other substance-related Orders of the Board of Osteopathic Licensure during the past five years,” Dunbar said in an email. “It’s important to keep in mind, however, that there are other boards in Maine that license ‘doctors,’ including the Board of Licensure in Medicine, which licenses MDs (medical doctors) and PAs (physician’s assistants).”

The Board of Licensure in Medicine reports disciplinary action to the Legislature every year, according to Dunbar. In 2013, eight actions were reported; in 2012, seven; 2011, four; 2010, seven; and 2009, nine. The totals include cases related to mental health, but few cases involve mental health, according to Dunbar.

“Most are substance use/abuse related. This board licenses the majority of all ‘doctors’ and all PAs in Maine. Some of these cases likely involve a PA, rather than a medical doctor.”

The Department of Professional & Financial Regulation and its affiliated boards (which include the Licensure in Medicine and Osteopathic licensure boards) license more than 40 occupations and professions, which is most of the occupations and professions requiring licenses in Maine, according to Dunbar. The public can check for board disciplinary actions by searching “licensee discipline” at www.maine.gov/pfr, or call the department, he said.

The Osteopathic Board, which initiated the complaint against Gosselin, said in its decision that he had habitually abused substances when there was evidence of only one previous operating under the influence stop by police, according to Mehnert. The definition of “habitual” does not mean “once,” Mehnert said.

The board stipulated that if Gosselin meets the terms of his suspension, it might allow him to practice after only 90 days, but there is no guarantee of that, according to Mehnert.

Gosselin has 1,400 patients who now must find other doctors, and Mehnert said that is one of the concerns he voiced to the board. The decision, he claimed, was pushed through faster than normal board procedures, which means patients had to find new doctors quickly.

Generally, Mehnert said the board makes a finding at the end of a board meeting and orders a draft decision drafted by a hearing officer to be signed for the next meeting, typically about 30 days later. In Gosselin’s most recent case, however, the hearing officer was authorized to sign the order as soon as the chairperson received it, which was within seven days of the hearing.

“He (Gosselin) did not have the opportunity to try to transition patients,” Mehnert said. “Some of the members raised that as an issue.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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