Kathy Lynch, the nurse practitioner in Indiana, charged and found not guilty of multiple felony counts for prescribing narcotic diet pills without a license, called in prescriptions for the doctor, without independently being licensed by the state, with a DEA registration. When the news story broke, Chicago Tribune readers learned that Lynch prescribed 2,048 prescriptions for narcotic weight loss drugs, phentermine and phendimetrazine in 2012 and 2013, in the name of the doctor she worked with, without the doctor’s knowledge or consent.[i] Lynch and another nurse practitioner she worked with, Karen Dunning, were charged with 42 felony counts for writing the prescriptions and delivering the narcotic diet pills directly.
When felony charges were issued against the nurses, there was a supportive response from their supporters and patients, with whom they were quite popular. In fact, many community supporters openly criticized local law enforcement. One can only speculate whether local popularity and notoriety led the nurses to commit crimes in prescribing and delivering drugs without a license.
Indiana ordered an emergency 90-day suspension of the nurses’ licenses to practice nursing.
The Indiana State Board of Nursing, notified of the arrests, ordered the nursing licenses of Lynch and Dunning to be suspended for 90 days, on an emergency bases, while awaiting the Indiana Attorney General to file a formal licensing complaint with the Board. It is reported that the board did not believe Lynch and Dunning could safely practice nursing in the State of Indiana, “Further, due to the serious nature of the allegations and (their) repeated illegal activity, it is believed that (they) represent a clear and immediate danger to the public health and safety,” the petitions (for suspension) state.[ii]
In the first trial, of the two nurses, the jury found Lynch not guilty.
At trial, the issue was whether the nurse knew she was breaking the law when she used the apparent authority of a doctor, to prescribe the narcotic diet pills. She faced a maximum of 20 years in prison.
After four hours deliberating, the jury found Lynch not guilty. In response, Lynch made statements such as “I’ve lost two years of my life…And my patients and my staff have suffered.”[iii]
Emergency license suspension was still active, despite a not guilty verdict.
Lynch’s license was still under emergency suspension, according to Trent Fox, representative for the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency. The law in Indiana requires advance practice nurses like Lynch obtain a DEA controlled substances registration if they want to administer, dispense or procure controlled substances. Lynch currently works as an office manager at the clinic where she prescribed and delivered the narcotic diet pills without the required DEA registration. Lynch has not yet been reissued a nurse practitioner’s license by the Board in Indiana.[iv]
As of the publishing date of this article, April 8, 2016, all three licenses held by Kathy Lynch are in “Emergency Suspension” status, reported by the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency search results. Lynch has three nursing board licenses: Registered Nurse, APN Prescriptive Authority, and CSR-Prescriptive Authority. Note the later two licenses were issued in August 2014, well after the initial charges were filed, leading to the emergency suspension of her, then single nursing license that was originally issued in 1983 and is scheduled to expire at the end of October 2017.
A not guilty verdict does not control the decision of a licensing board.
Facing up to 20 years in prison, the jury sided with the defendant, Lynch, who argued confusion in the laws and her understanding, meant that she did not knowingly violate the law. The Board in this case, may consider the verdict, but the defense of confusion and mistake of the law could work against Lynch, when the Board evaluates her fitness as a nurse practitioner. It is unknown when, if it all, Lynch’s license will be restored.
Professional licensing issues and decisions may operate independent of law enforcement and court procedures and decisions, however the entire collection of facts and circumstances can influence licensing boards, charged with protecting the safety of consumers by ensuring licensees continue to meet state minimum licensing requirements.
Michael V. Favia and Associates, P.C., works with health care professionals who are arrested and face conviction as well as license suspension, revocation and discipline, generally.
Chicago health law and litigation attorney Michael V. Favia and his associates in several locations and disciplines, advise and represent licensed physicians in all types of litigation and administrative matters involving licensing and regulatory agencies.
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[i] Chicago Tribune, Kouts nurse practitioners charged for illegal prescribing weight-loss drugs, by Amy Lavalley, March 20, 2015.
[ii] See HNi above.
[iv] Chicago Tribune, Cleared nurse practitioner determined to return to practice, by Jerry Davich, April 5, 2016.