Contraindications: Dr. Paul William Anderson

Published on
March 9, 2009

Sometimes, all a doctor with a checkered past wants is some peace and quiet.

Dr. Paul William Anderson had a little trouble with a medical malpractice lawsuit in Nebraska. The Medical Board of Nebraska wanted the radiologist to explain why he had failed to diagnose a tumor that ended up blinding one of his patients.

Missing a tumor is a big deal for a radiologist. One of the main things radiologists are supposed to do is find tumors. This was the equivalent of a surgeon taking out the wrong kidney. To make matters worse, an investigation into his practice found that he "demonstrated a critical lack of knowledge with regard to the basic anatomy of the human spine."

Anderson's insurance company paid a malpractice settlement in September 2003. Anderson should have reported the settlement to the Nebraska Board of Medicine. But he didn't.

When Nebraska found out, state officials tried to track him down. He was no longer in Nebraska, though. He was running his radiology practice out of California. So the board sent him a letter there.

The letter was returned with a forwarding address in Montana. It turns out Anderson also has a license to practice medicine in Big Sky Country. So the board sent a letter to Montana.

This time Anderson did reply. But he wasn't in Montana anymore. He sent an e-mail to the board from Mexico.

After some back and forth with the board, he wrote, "I am really weary of the continual harassment from your office and need some time to think this over." A few days later, on April 4, 2007, he e-mailed his resignation.

Now, what about those other states? California didn't get around to forcing Anderson to give up his license until November 2008, a year and a half later.

In Montana, Anderson met a worse fate. He was killed off. At least as far as the state's doctor database was concerned.

"He was inadvertently put on a list of deceased people. It was just an input error," said Jean Branscum, the executive director of the Montana Board of Medical Examiners.

"Your call made me take a look at it, and I thought something looked wrong."

Branscum said that Anderson, like all doctors, is supposed to report disciplinary actions when he renews his license. That means he should have reported his resignation from the Nebraska board when he renewed in March 2008. When he renews again in March 2010, he will have to report that California made him surrender his license.

For now? "He's still in good standing in the state of Montana," Branscum said.

The real question is: Why did it take these boards so long to do something about a radiologist who doesn't know where the spinal cord ends?

The Nebraska board first penalized Anderson for the missed tumor in September 2004, and the California board found that Anderson believed that the spinal cord ended about two-thirds of the way down the spine, meaning that he completely missed the lower part of the spine and did not even realize that the spinal cord reached past the thoracic part of the spine and into the lumbar. (Anyone with lower back pain probably wishes this were true.)

You can see the Nebraska disciplinary documents here.