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By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian
BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer email@example.com
In what prosecutors believe is the first case of its kind in the country, a doctor was sentenced Wednesday in connection with inappropriately medicating elderly patients for convenience sake.
The California Department of Justice intends to send a message with the conviction of Dr. Hoshang Pormir, who pleaded no contest to conspiracy in allowing the drugging of patients at a Lake Isabella skilled nursing facility.
"These people are vulnerable patients," state Deputy Attorney General Steve Muni said. "They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect."
Pormir was given three years' probation, plus he's now a convicted felon.
Muni said the sentence was appropriate given Pormir's relatively minor role in comparison with other defendants who worked at the Kern Valley Healthcare District facility.
"Our investigation showed he let it happen," Muni said of the reported drugging. "He did not cause it."
Defense attorney Fred Gagliardini said he agreed with Muni that medicating for convenience is wrong, but something needs to be done to control unruly elderly patients who can become a danger to themselves or others. Pharmaceutical companies need to come up with an appropriate drug for such patients, he said.
Gagliardini said the outcome was "fair," and said his client and others with less culpability in this case have been dealt with appropriately.
Pormir, in addition to his criminal probation, is currently on probation with the Medical Board of California. Among the conditions of his probation are that he complete a mentoring program designed to detect, evaluate and remediate deficiencies in his clinical performance. He can't practice medicine until he finishes the program.
He's also prohibited from engaging in the solo practice of medicine and from practicing in skilled nursing facilities, convalescent homes and assisted living facilities, according to Medical Board records. The board issued the disciplinary actions and two-year probationary period on Sept. 14, 2011.
Three defendants have pleaded no contest to conspiracy charges. No one has yet been convicted of the charge of harming or causing the death of an elder adult, but former nursing director Gwen Hughes still faces eight counts of that offense, as well as two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
Attorney General's staff has alleged eight patients at the nursing facility were inappropriately medicated from August 2006 to August 2007 to keep them quiet. Three died.
Hughes ordered certain patients to receive high and unnecessary doses of anti-psychotropic drugs, according to the criminal complaint filed in the case. Pormir signed off on the orders after the drugs were administrated.
The complaint says at least two residents were forcibly injected. None of the residents were given a medical exam or diagnosis before receiving the powerful doses, the complaint says.
In addition to the deaths, the drugged residents suffered serious side effects ranging from severe lethargy, to drooling and incoherence, according to the complaint.
Pamela Ott, former administrator of the facility, pleaded no contest in June to conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 22. Pharmacist Debbi Gayle Hayes accepted a plea deal in 2009 and received three years' probation.
Hughes is scheduled to go to trial in October.