By KELLY SHIERS Staff Reporter
May 10th, 2006
A Mount Uniacke doctor with a history of addiction and drug abuse problems has once again lost his licence to practise medicine after four urine tests came back positive for cannabis use.
Dr. David Russell could not be reached for comment Tuesday after the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia announced the doctor had violated a November 2005 settlement agreement that allowed him to return to medicine only if he met certain conditions, including passing random drug tests.
According to the college’s written decision, four urine samples taken from Dr. Russell in February, March and April of this year tested positive for metabolites of cannabinoids, indicating consumption of marijuana or a related substance.
"Dr. Russell testified he had not consumed cannabis but, in the face of the test results and in the absence of any explanation for those results, the committee does not accept Dr. Russell’s testimony," Michael Wood, chairman of the hearing committee, wrote on its behalf.
No one answered the telephone at Dr. Russell’s office, and messages left for him and for his lawyer, Dan Campbell, were not returned. Callers to Dr. Russell’s practice were advised by a recording that the doctor was "not available to see patients today."
In an interview, college registrar Dr. Cameron Little said a hearing will be held within 60 days to hear arguments about what Dr. Russell will have to do in order to practise medicine again.
"Perhaps the two parties disagree on that, so that’s what the issue will be — will he be unsuspended, and if he is, what conditions will he have to fulfill?" Dr. Little said.
In its decision, the committee acknowledged that Dr. Russell’s family and patients will suffer because of the suspension but wrote that there is an "overriding public interest" in ensuring doctors live up to disciplinary settlement agreements.
"In addition, consideration must be given to protecting patients and the public from possible harm which could result from physicians who may have their judgment impaired by drug abuse."
The committee dismissed allegations that Dr. Russell also violated his settlement agreement by not being available for drug testing at specific times and not showing up for testing.
In April, Dr. Russell told the college’s hearing committee that he had not used marijuana since undergoing treatment and that he was shocked by the positive test results.
He said he initially believed the high doses of ibuprofen he was taking to deal with the pain of complications from a wisdom tooth extraction may have interfered with the testing.
At the same time, Mr. Campbell told the hearing committee that patients had eagerly welcomed Dr. Russell’s return to medicine and that no evidence had been presented to suggest the doctor was unfit to see patients.
Dr. Russell was suspended in November 2005, part of the fallout of a substance abuse problem that culminated in his passing out at work in January 2004 after taking a combination of morphine and barbiturates. ( email@example.com