Doctors Behaving Badly: DC anesthesiologist was caught with painkillers meant for babies

Published on
May 19, 2010

Who hasn't come home from work with a company pen in their pocket? Used the work printer for directions to a restaurant on a Friday afternoon? Answered a call from their mom on the company cell phone?

In that spirit, we could consider Dr. Duane Stillions just one of the rest of us.

If only he weren't a children's physician with a drug habit.

Stillions, a 42-year-old anesthesiologist, was caught in May 2009 by Children's National Medical Center in Washington DC taking painkillers that were meant for kids undergoing surgery.

Sometimes the medicine was left over after an operation, according to documents from the District of Columbia Board of Medicine. Other times "drugs were signed out by Dr. Stillions for patients who would not have required the drug allegedly prescribed." Also, the board found "patterns of heavy use relative to his peers."

Within two months of these problems surfacing, Stillions was fired and checked himself into treatment in Arizona. A few months after that, the medical board suspended his license for two years.

The action was swift because Stillions had a record.

He had been through a voluntary inpatient drug abuse program before, according to the DEA, and "subsequently enrolled in - and complied with the requirements of - the physician's health program, with monitoring and advocacy by the Physicians Health Committee of the District of Columbia Medical Society, all with the full knowledge and approval of the hospital and the District of Columbia Board of Medicine."

In April this year, Stillions was sentenced for unlawfully possessing fentanyl. He was put on probation for one year, which prompted this uncharacteristic bit of crowing from the DEA in a press release.

"Today's sentencing shows that the DEA does not distinguish between a dealer on the street or a doctor in a white coat; if you break the law, we will go after you," stated Ava A. Cooper-Davis, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

I wonder how many dealers on the street in DC end up with just one year of probation.

Final question: The DEA claims that Stillions "voluntarily has relinquished all of his medical licenses." But he appears to hold a valid license in Virginia, just a short drive from his old children's hospital haunt. This could be a case of the board's Web site not being kept up to date, or it could be another case of one medical board not letting other medical boards know about disciplinary actions. The hospital, of course, should also have reported its discipline of Stillions to the National Practitioner Data Bank, although the public would have no way of knowing because the names of doctors in the NPDB are hidden from public view.

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