Surgeon receives a year's probation

6-month term suspended in drug fraud case

October 16, 2002|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A former University of Maryland Medical Center surgeon was placed on probation yesterday for prescription drug fraud, and the sentencing judge told him he found the doctor's situation "a tragedy unlike one I have seen in a while."

John Lee Flowers, 44, of Towson was forced to resign his job, faces the prospect of losing his medical license and has separated from his wife, Cindy Flowers, for whom he illegally prescribed painkillers and diet pills.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Paul A. Hackner ordered a six-month suspended sentence, placed Flowers on one-year of probation and fined him $1,000. Though this was the second time he faced similar charges, sentencing guidelines called for probation.

Apologizing in court yesterday, Flowers said he has "major issues regarding my wife," for whom he had been obtaining much of the drugs. Their Severn home was raided by police in November, and they were charged with prescription fraud in June. He also said he learned his wife has cancer, and said he is "looking to pick up the pieces" of his life.

Flowers was accused of writing prescriptions for the painkiller Oxycontin and the diet drug Phentermine in the name of his wife - who police said had a $200,000-a-year drug problem - and three other people.

In August, he entered the equivalent of a guilty plea to one count of prescription drug fraud, admitting that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him. His wife is scheduled for trial in two weeks.

Their lawyer, E. Thomas Maxwell, described him as a skilled physician involved in a troubled relationship with a woman who had a longtime serious drug addiction and other problems.

The state Board of Physician Quality Assurance is following the case but has not taken formal action, according to Barbara K. Vona, compliance chief. The surgeon's license could be suspended or revoked.

This is Flowers' second brush with the courts and the licensing board. In 1989, he was given probation before judgment by an Anne Arundel County judge for prescription fraud, allowing him to clear his record by complying with probation. He was reinstated into the surgical residency program at the University of Maryland and received a medical license in 1990, though with conditions that included a five-year probation.

In 1993, the board allowed him to write prescriptions, and his probationary period ended in 1996.

Eileen Reilly, assistant state's attorney, said there was no indication in the current case that Flowers was using drugs that would impair his surgical skills. County police were tipped to irregularities in Flowers' prescriptions by a pharmacist.

Flowers was an associate professor of surgery at the University of Maryland's medical school.

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