An accusation filed by the Attorney General of California, on behalf of the Medical Board of California, details how La Jolla Doctor Michelle Brown dealt with substance abuse while still holding a valid medical license to practice in California.
According to the documents, Brown traveled to Thailand twice to enter a substance abuse program, once in 2009 and again in 2014.
The documents also indicate she entered the Betty Ford Center in 2010 and the Promises Treatment Centers program in 2013 and 2015.
“How does a serial drunk retain her driver’s license, let alone her medical license?” Jamie Court, President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, asked after reviewing the accusation against Brown. “Either the medical board was asleep at the wheel or there was inadequate reporting to the state.”
When driving to the Betty Ford Center, in May of 2010, she was involved in a car accident and arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the documents.
Five years later, while returning to Promises, the documents say she “suffered hallucinations” and was admitted to psychiatric hospital for detoxification.
A year and a half later, in November 2016, she crashed into two parked cars after exiting a freeway, the documents show. She was “disoriented as to her whereabouts” and arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the documents.
A hearing on the Board’s Accusation has not yet been held. NBC 7 Investigates contacted both Brown and her attorney, Steven Zeigen.
“Dr. Brown is struggling with a disease process much like a someone struggling with cancer whose cancer comes back. She is committed to maintaining her sobriety and hopes to resume her medical practice at an appropriate time,” Zeigen told NBC 7.
“There should be new legislation to require any doctor who was involved with a DUI to make that fact public,” Jaime Court said. “If they are repeat offenses, there should be no plea bargains, no deals, and no medical license. We need no tolerance for repeat offenders policy in the medical profession.”
The accusation filed by the state details a mental evaluation agreed to by the doctor. In this evaluation, the interviewing doctor determined “respondent’s mental illness, including her substance misuse, has impaired her ability to practice medicine with safety to the public,” according to the documents.
Brown’s medical license was placed on an interim suspension by the board in April. Now, the board must determine whether to continue the suspension or revoke her license.
NBC 7 Investigates is reporting on medical professionals accused by the public and the California Medical Board of wrongdoing in order to bring information to the public and increase transparency of medical practices in the San Diego region. Currently, this information is reported by the Medical Board on its website.
Medical professionals are not required to disclose this information to their patients.