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Contraindications: Dr. Doyle John Borchers

Contraindications: Dr. Doyle John Borchers

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When Stanford University neurosurgeon and amateur pilot Doyle John Borchers III (California License No. 64879) crashed his plane near Lake Tahoe last August, investigators wondered what the hell he was doing flying a plane at night in a mountainous area in the first place.

Borchers, who died in the crash, had been flying sporadically for less than a year and had only flown at night once before - the night before the crash.

Now, a National Transportation Safety Board review of the crash provides more details. The NTSB found that Borchers had "a dizzying cocktail of drugs in his system, including cocaine and Prozac," according to a very interesting story by Will Oremus of the Bay Area News Group.

Borchers, 41, was flying from Palo Alto to Reno to gamble, the NTSB surmised. He had only trained in night flying once - the night before the accident, and, according to the article, "there was no record he had ever flown farther than 50 nautical miles."

And then there's this: "The accomplished doctor, known for his work on the neuropharmacology of addiction, had a long and well-documented history of substance addiction and abuse himself, the report adds."

The Federal Aviation Administration says that the amount of drugs found in Borchers blood, liver and urine should have prevented him from flying. The FAA found opiates, mood stabilizers and anti-psychotic drugs on top of the Prozac and cocaine.

"The substances identified in NTSB report are prohibited medicines and nobody should be flying with them in their system," FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told the Daily News. "If a pilot came to us and acknowledged taking medication like that, we would deny them a medical certificate," which is a flight requirement.

But Borchers didn't tell the FAA he was taking any of those drugs. He applied for his student pilot's certificate on Dec. 20, 2007 and checked "no" when asked about depression, anxiety, substance dependence, failed drug tests, or use of illegal substances in the past two years, according to the NTSB.

The Medical Board of California was aware of Borchers' drug problem. According to the NTSB, they were investigating a "documented a history of substance dependence and abuse for more than 10 years preceding the accident, involving the misuse of at least four different substances (including alcohol) and treatment through at least six different programs for substance-related disorders during that period," the board wrote.


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it breaks my heart to find this article and read what really happpened to Dr. Borchers. The Borchers family as always held a special place in my heart since I meet them in 1995. I will always remember him as the great man and father he was.

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That makes two of us.  He was a very good man.

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John was not only a brilliant surgeon but a friend. He operated on me a total of 3 times- and during that time we became friends. I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle and also developed a friendship with John.
I'm so sorry to hear of his death and also the struggles he faced. We should remember the good he did people he helped. I will truly miss him and my condolences to his family and friends.

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Dr. Borchers was my doctor and friend. He was a rare breed and I will miss him. We shared common interests such as coin collecting and music. He also had colorful fish in his aquarium at his office in Santa Rosa too.


The Center for Health Journalism’s two-day symposium on domestic violence will provide reporters with a roadmap for covering this public health epidemic with nuance and sensitivity. The first day will take place on the USC campus on Friday, March 17. The Center has a limited number of $300 travel stipends for California journalists coming from outside Southern California and a limited number of $500 travel stipends for those coming from out of state. Journalists attending the symposium will be eligible to apply for a reporting grant of $2,000 to $10,000 from our Domestic Violence Impact Reporting Fund. Find more info here!


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