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Patient-protection watchdogs decided this case didn’t merit a bark; were they right?

In journalism, we write about things that happened, not about what didn't happen. So I have been flummoxed in how to approach the subject of Peter Gleason, a psychiatrist who was disciplined in three other states. Not Florida.

In the Florida Department of Health medical lookup site, Gleason has a "clear, active" license with no pending complaints. He would be free to work here if he wanted, which could happen at any time, since he is a "locum tenens," accepting temporary assignments. Currently he's working at a psychiatric clinic in California.

DOH, as is required by law, remains mum on the subject of Gleason. If it had any investigation of him, it was either dismissed or is still ongoing; cases do not become public until 10 days after a committee of the Board of Medicine finds "probable cause" that a violation of the medical practice act has occurred. One way a doctor can violate that act is to have action taken against his license in another jurisdiction, which Gleason has. In abundance.

Gleason, reached by phone at his current job, said Florida authorities told him they reviewed the case and decided to take no action. "The only problem I had...was due to one lost chart," he said."That was cleared up in Maryland a long time ago."

Which leads to these questions: Did other states overreact in disciplining Gleason? Or did Florida under-react?

Here is what the record shows:

The first negative publicity hit the Annapolis physician in July 2006 when federal prosecutors brought a case against him for promoting a drug for an off-label use -- an offense that many in the legal and medical fields called a violation of Gleason's free speech. He fought the accusation, and in January 2009, records show, was given one year of probation for a misdemeanor: misbranding a drug in interstate commerce.

Meanwhile, the medical disciplinary process was at work in Maryland, where authorities filed charges against Gleason for inappropriate care in the case of a mentally ill youngster and recommended a 30-day suspension. After taking testimony, Administrative Law Judge Latonya Dargan issued a ruling in October 2007 that said suspension was appropriate:

"The evidence demonstrates that (Gleason) violated appropriate standards of  medical care in a number of ways during the course of his treatment of (the boy). It is clear that (Gleason)  has lost touch with the importance of maintaining adequate medical documentation. He was not sufficiently vigilant in monitoring (the boy's) responses to the multiple medications he prescribed, and he was insufficiently available to (the boy) during times of crisis," Dargan wrote.

"In light of the numerous ways in which (Gleason's) conduct breached applicable standards of care, a 30-day suspension along with the continuing medical education classes is a reasonable sanction."

When the Maryland medical board considered the case, though, the treatment count was dropped and he was found negligent only in his record-keeping. The board issued its order in July 2008, with a reprimand and six months' probation.

While those two penalties are less serious than suspension, they triggered a report to the National Physicians Data Bank. (The Florida board almost never imposes a reprimand  for record-keeping violations; it prefers a "letter of concern," which is not reported to the Data Bank.)

Because of what had happened in Maryland, the medical board in Pennsylvania, where Gleason also had a license, imposed the same discipline: a reprimand and six months' probation.

In March 2009, Maryland said Gleason had complied with the terms of his discipline, but by then he had let his licenses in Maryland and Pennsylvania expire. That left him with licenses in California and Florida.

In California, a negotiated settlement between the state and Gleason that took effect four months ago includes a reprimand and a requirement that he take courses in record-keeping and prescribing practices for children.  

Gleason hopes he has heard the end of it. 

Will he be working in this state in the future? "Maybe," he said. "I like Florida."

--Carol Gentry, Editor, can be reached at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.