Dr. Bradley Schwartz and Ronald Bigger were arraigned in Pima County Superior Court Thursday on charges of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder. Schwartz is accused of hiring Bigger to kill Schwartz’s former pediatric ophthalmology partner, Dr. David Brian Stidham.
Most of us didn't know who Dr. Bradley Schwartz was a month ago, but the Arizona Medical Board had a close eye on the pediatric ophthalmologist.
"He was being checked very closely,” said board executive director Barry Cassidy, Ph.D., P.A.-C.
That's because, two years earlier, the board found out Schwartz was indicted by a grand jury for writing prescriptions for Vicodin and Ritalin, and that he basically kept for himself. Schwartz was ordered to drug treatment. But about five months later, Dr. Joseph Miller, chief of ophthalmology at the U of A, complained about Schwartz's conduct. After Schwartz was arrested last month as a suspect in the murder of former partner Dr. David Brian Stidham, Miller asked the governor to investigate why the board allowed Schwartz to keep practicing.
"You know, I don't know all of the facts, but I've asked my staff to take a look at it, what were the procedures that were followed. That's all I can comment on right now,” Governor Napolitano said.
In a response letter to the governor, the board explained that “Dr. Schwartz was unable to practice medicine due to his practice restriction” from the time of Miller's complaint in March 2003 to Schwartz's hearing the following august.
"This case was actually handled very expeditiously, and very thoroughly, and very serious discipline was handed out as a result,” Dr. Cassidy said.
But the board did not revoke Schwartz's license at that hearing. He was prohibited from prescribing narcotics for at least a year, placed on a five year probation that included daily contact with the board, and random drug tests. For the board, this was the type of action that has reformed other doctors, and served the public at the same time.
"The overwhelming majority of them are very safe practitioners as long as they're closely monitored, and so the public isn't deprived of what is a good physician when they're sober and they're not impaired,” Dr. Cassidy said.
Schwartz and Bigger are scheduled to appear in court again on December 23rd.