Ahwatukee Foothills doctor Lynn Sweet is back to practicing family medicine after a court reversed a state oversight board's decision last month to suspend his medical license.
However, Sweet's ability to prescribe narcotics will remain restricted pending the outcome of his appeal to Maricopa County Superior Court, said his lawyer, Jeffrey Grass. A ruling could happen in the next two to three months, Grass said.
On Friday, Sweet said the suspension was heavy-handed and out of proportion.
"It's like if somebody was jaywalking and they put him in front of a firing squad," he said.
Last month, the Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners, which regulates more than 2,500 doctors of osteopathic medicine in the state, suspended Sweet's license after concluding that he repeatedly had prescribed large amounts and high doses of controlled medications to more than a dozen patients from April 2008-09, sometimes without conducting physical exams. The board also found that he had failed to recognize "drug seeking behavior" in three patients, and that he continued to refill prescriptions for chronic pain patients with little medical assessment and without referrals to specialists.
In one case, Sweet was found to have prescribed refills for large doses of Oxycodon, Oxycontin and Xanax to a 22-year-old man who said he'd been injured in an ATV crash in Mexico, according to the board's findings. Sweet did not perform a proper physical examination of the man, the board concluded.
Sweet, a physician with Priority Care Clinic at 12020 S. Warner Elliot Loop, said he's been in practice for several years, and in all that time, it's possible that he missed some notations in patients' charts.
"We're talking about thousands of notes," he said. "Basically what they're doing is saying my paperwork is lacking. Is that worth taking somebody's license? I don't think so."
Sweet said some of his patients had been referred to other doctors because of his restrictions in prescribing controlled medication. Grass said those restrictions likely would be lifted if the appeal is successful.
The suspension, which boiled down to several counts of "unprofessional conduct," barred Sweet from practicing osteopathic medicine for a year. He received five years probation, as well, during which time he was to be prohibited from treating chronic pain patients and from prescribing narcotics and opioids, according to the board's findings. He also received an additional two years of probation, to run concurrently, for failing to keep medical records for a patient who needed them to file a disability claim.
Sweet said such rulings could have a chilling effect on doctors who prescribe pain medication.
"It's hard to be a good doctor and not have empathy for people who have pain," he said.
He said he believes his patients will continue to come to him for treatment.
"I've been in practice there a long time," Sweet said. "I have lots of patients who know me very well and know that I genuinely care about them."