A doctor with two 2020 DUI arrests might’ve come to work impaired

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Sarasota County Dr. Stephen Ducker, already fired for various forms of poor medical professional behavior, showed up to work barely able to walk and talk last June, according to people at a group home. That night, Ducker would take the first of two DUI arrests in 34 days.

Those are just some of the reasons the Florida Department of Health gives for the emergency restriction order (ERO) slapped on Ducker’s license by the state Surgeon General.

Ducker, 61, has pleaded not guilty to all the DUI charges in each case.

Department of Health records say he has been licensed in Florida since 2013. Those records show a 2016 administrative complaint after his noncompliance ended a contract with the Professionals Resource Network, the state’s monitoring program for impaired physicians.


FIRINGS AND DUI ARREST NO. 1

The Emergency Restriction Order said Florida Mobile Physicians fired Ducker on May 29 after “erratic behavior and numerous complaints from facilities that he was missing visits, failing to return phone calls, not keeping patient notes or following up with patients and behaving aggressively toward facility staff.”

But Ducker still worked with some places, such as Sarasota group home Nanni & Poppi’s Place. On June 15, the ERO says a patient saw Ducker walking unsteadily and heard his speech as slurred. The patient told the owner, who agreed after speaking to Ducker and added he “couldn’t answer the owner’s questions or speak in complete sentences.”

That afternoon, a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office arrest report says, a witness saw Ducker blow through a red light and stop sign in his Toyota SUV, then crash into a ditch and toss a bottle of pills after getting out of the vehicle. When deputies got to the crash, they noticed the same slurred speech and unsteady walk that the Nanni & Poppi’s people had.

They also noticed the pill bottle was a 90-count prescription for alzaprolam, the generic name for Xanax. Ducker said his doctor prescribed them for him. A deputy pointed out the prescription had him as the prescribing doctor, not the patient with the female name. Ducker said that’s his girlfriend and he must have grabbed her bottle on the way out the door.

The bottle, the deputy noted, was defaced. Ducker couldn’t answer why he or his girlfriend, a nurse, would do that.

Ducker insisted he had only Xanax in his system, which a urine sample showed. Court documents say he blew 0.00 on the breathalyzer at 6:23 p.m. and 6:28 p.m. The measurement for legally drunk is 0.08.

A WALMART PARKING LOT AND DUI ARREST NO. 2

On July 19, a Sarasota County deputy said she was parked at the front of an aisle in the Walmart parking lot in Osprey while working on another case. A delivery truck was parked in front of the supermarket part with its rear lift out, shrinking the space between the vehicles to impassable.

With a closed Walmart and, thus, an empty parking lot to go around them, the deputy said Ducker tried to ease his blue sedan between her cruiser and the truck. The deputy heard a crunch that she presumed was the sedan hitting the truck’s ramp.

Ducker introduced himself by yelling at her, “Why are you parked so close?”

After Ducker parked his car, the deputy said, she stopped him as she walked toward the store, and asked for his driver’s license. He gave her his license and a red credit card, she said. In a conversation featuring his slurred speech, she said she explained the store had shortened hours during the pandemic and was closed.

A second deputy who showed up noticed Ducker swaying as he stood. That deputy noted Ducker kept criticizing the first deputy’s parking choices.

“He, later in the night at the jail, called me a Nazi for enforcing the law and that because he is a doctor, he should be given a ride home,” the second deputy wrote.

Court documents say, Ducker blew a 0.00 and a 0.000, but admitted he’d have Xanax in his system.

FINAL ANALYSIS

The Department of Health ordered Ducker to undergo analysis with Wilson. The ERO says Ducker detailed a substance abuse fight that goes back to 2000, when he was a nurse. He was fired from one job for stealing fetanyl. He’s been monitored by the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN), which monitors impaired nurses for the Board of Nursing, and Professionals Resource Network (PRN), which does the same with doctors for the Board of Medicine.

Ducker admitted taking alprazolam (the generic name for Xanax) on the days of his DUI arrests, but didn’t say he was impaired either when driving or at the group home. He did admit to Wilson that his “opioid use disorder is a ‘dormant volcano.’ ”

Despite this admission, Wilson found that “Ducker’s behavior demonstrates a significantly limited insight, poor judgment and lack of understanding of the chronicity of his disorders.”

Wilson also said Ducker prescribing alprazolam for his girlfriend showed questionable ethics.

“Dr. Wilson expressed concern that Dr. Ducker continues to demonstrate significant victimization, to the point of paranoia, in that he believes IPN, PRN, the Department (of Health), and even Dr. Wilson himself have ulterior motives in restricting his ability to practice.

“Based on the foregoing, Dr. Wilson opined that Dr. Ducker is unable to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety to patients.” https://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article248130665.html

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