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Pornography Conviction May End Doctor’s Career

A Tampa Bay anesthesiologist convicted of possessing child pornography,  Dr. James D. Murphy Jr., escaped a jail sentence. He hoped to keep his medical license and eventually return to practice.

Department of Health prosecutors were willing. But the Board of Medicine was most emphatically not.

On Friday, when Murphy’s case came before the board at its meeting in Tampa, members said there is no way they would let him return to practice.

“We cannot have someone with 33 counts as a registered sexual offender be out there, doing any kind of care," said Dr. Onelia Lage, a Miami pediatrician. "I would be horrified if my 19-year-old daughter went into surgery and I found out later (that the anesthesiologist was a sex offender). It's not what I would want for my family, then it's not what I expect for the citizens of Florida.”

Consumer member Donald Mullins of Orlando had the same reaction. “I would never allow him to be in the operating room with one of my two daughters.”

DOH records indicate that Murphy’s practice was at Bayfront Medical Center, but that he is not practicing now.

In other action, the board:

--Voted to revoke the license of  a Fort Lauderdale physician on charges of lying under oath as an expert witness. Dr. Richard S. Dellerson, who said he now is not in active practice but is medical director for a fire-rescue service, protested the “extremely severe penalty.”  

Dellerson was accused of exaggerating his credentials in sworn statements while serving as a paid expert witness in a medical-malpractice case. He has the right to appeal the board’s decision.

-- Threw out a settlement prosecutors had reached with a Pompano Beach surgeon, saying they don’t want him doing any kind of procedures because he has poor judgment.

Dr. Steven Gelbard was accused of making mistakes in two cases while operating at Jackson Memorial Hospital-North. In one of the cases, he was accused of packing a wound with Sani-Wipes – used for cleaning hospital counters – instead of the proper surgical materials.

“I would never do this again in a million years,” Gelbard said. “I learned from this majorly.

In the Murphy case, records show he was arrested in 2010 and charges with 33 counts of child pornography found on his home computer. He pleaded guilty in November under an agreement that he would not have to go to jail.

He is officially a sex offender and must serve 10 years of probation, but does not have to wear an ankle monitor because the pornographic images he kept were of teenagers, not young children, records show.

The agreement that the board threw out -- which was reached by DOH prosecutors and Murphy's attorney -- would have included indefinite suspension while the doctor went through an evaluation by a special program for impaired physicians. It also called for his permanent restriction from treating females who were not adults.

DOH prosecutors said the agreement properly protected the public and noted there was no evidence Dr. Murphy had ever harmed patients.

But the board wasn't moved. With the agreement thrown out, Murphy has a week to decide whether to allow his license to be revoked or file an appeal to the Division of Administrative Hearings.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.