Longtime physician regains his license CALVERT COUNTY

CALVERT DOCTOR BOUNCES BACK

July 23, 1993|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff Writer

PRINCE FREDERICK -- Acquitted seven months ago in Circuit Court of illegally prescribing narcotics, Dr. George J. Weems is making a fresh start. At nearly 83 years old.

There are boxes yet to be unpacked in the new office, and the word of his return is still filtering through his circle of loyal patients. But the family medical practice that began in 1938, when Dr. Weems called on patients on the back roads of rural Calvert County in a black Plymouth coupe, has resumed.

A year after surrendering his state medical license in the wake of charges that he illegally prescribed controlled painkillers and an amphetamine to undercover police, Dr. Weems recovered his license in June. His practice, however, will be strictly limited by conditions imposed by the Maryland Board of Physician Quality Assurance. And Dr. Weems has yet to apply to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to recover his license to prescribe controlled drugs.

Dr. Weems -- who probably holds the county record for longevity in medical practice -- is pleased to be back. He resumed his JTC practice two weeks ago, taking appointments for Mondays and Fridays and walk-in patients on Wednesdays.

"I missed the people," Dr. Weems said the other day, as he spent a quiet morning setting up his new office next to a shopping center on Route 2/4. "I wasn't ready to quit. I had a lot of older people I was taking care of. They were interested in my staying around a while."

He hasn't advertised, but a local newspaper recently published a story about his return, and word is getting around. A week ago Friday, he saw seven patients, about half the business he did before he was forced to close his office near Calvert Memorial Hospital on July 1, 1992. He says he'll continue to charge about $20 for an office visit, $25 for a house call. Yes, he still makes house calls.

Most of the people he sees come in for treatment of common ailments: colds, sore throats, high blood pressure, said Dr. Weems. "Anything that needs a specialist's care, I will refer to someone else."

'A good man'

George Purvey, 47, whose family has come to Dr. Weems for 30 years, stopped in last Wednesday to have the doctor sign some forms for his Supplemental Security Income disability payments. said his cousin told him that Dr. Weems was back.

"Dr. Weems is a good man," said Mr. Purvey, who lives in Huntingtown, about four miles north of Prince Frederick. "I think they did Dr. Weems wrong, that's what I think. They should never have done it."

That about sums up the sentiment expressed publicly in Calvert County about the case of the state vs. Dr. George Jones Weems.

When the news broke in the spring of 1992 that the Southern Maryland Narcotics Task Force had conducted a sting operation against Dr. Weems and brought criminal drug charges against him, local newspapers were flooded with letters supporting the man known as Calvert's last country doctor. A group of local physicians circulated a protest petition, saying the matter should have been handled through the Board of Physician Quality Assurance, not the criminal court.

18 character witnesses

The 2 1/2 -day trial in Circuit Court last December sounded as much like a canonization as a criminal case. The judge heard from 18 character witnesses on behalf of Dr. Weems, many of them among the most notable figures in Southern Maryland politics.

When it was over, Judge Robert J. Woods not only acquitted Dr. Weems of all six misdemeanor counts, he declared that "Dr. Weems is and has been one of the heroes of this county."

The Narcotics Task Force -- composed of officers from Calvert, St. Mary's and Charles counties -- began its investigation after receiving complaints from local pharmacists about Dr. Weems' prescriptions.

Some pharmacists had stopped filling Dr. Weems' prescriptions for anything but antibiotics, believing he was not careful about ensuring that the patient really needed the medication. Some pharmacists said they believed that the doctor was the victim of professional pill-seekers who saw the trusting, elderly man as an easy mark. Others said Dr. Weems' naivete bordered on professional irresponsibility.

In his defense, Dr. Weems said last year he was merely practicing medicine as he always had, trusting his patients at their word. He said that's what he did when police officers posing as patients visited his office four times between November 1991 and January 1992. He wrote five prescriptions for the officers without examining them and one for a woman who was not even in the office. The undercover agent claimed his girlfriend needed the painkiller.

'A jaundiced eye'

From now on, Dr. Weems said, "I'll probably get a little suspicious of strangers . . . I'll probably question them more. I'll just view them with a jaundiced eye."

Actually, under the conditions imposed by the state board, Dr. Weems won't be seeing any new patients until their first evaluations are performed by Dr. Issam F. Damalouji, who has an office next door. Dr. Damalouji, chief of staff at Calvert Memorial Hospital, also agreed to co-sign all Dr. Weems' prescriptions for controlled drugs, review and sign all medical records maintained by Dr. Weems and submit quarterly reports on Dr. Weems' practice to the state board.

Dr. Weems, who said he spent his hiatus fishing, hunting, and tending to his 150 acres of farm land near Huntingtown, said he'd like to practice for another two years or so. He said he's in good health, having fully recovered from triple bypass surgery in 1988. He'll turn 83 on Aug. 11.

"As long as you're living," said Dr. Weems, "there'll be a few people who want medical advice on one thing or another."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.