DOCTOR MY EYESTo hear his lawyers and even his former lover, who is testifying against him, Dr. Bradley Schwartz was well on his way to restarting a flourishing ophthalmology practice and was set to tap Tucson's growing plastic surgery market when he was arrested on Oct. 15 on charges stemming from the Oct. 5 murder of Dr. David Brian Stidham.
Brick Storts, Schwartz's lawyer, is invoking his client's right to a speedy trial and is insistent that the trial begin on Nov. 15, the date planned but abandoned in favor of Feb. 28. Prosecutors and Jill Thorpe, attorney for Ronald Bruce Bigger, who is accused of killing Stidham for Schwartz, said the Nov. 15 date was unrealistic. Unable to post a $2 million bond, Schwartz may be getting more accustomed to the Pima County Jail, but he wants out, to salvage whatever medical practice he can start if acquitted.
Time is of the essence, says Kraig J. Marton, the Phoenix lawyer who handles Schwartz's troubles at the Arizona Medical Board. Schwartz agreed when he was arrested to put his license on hold and to not practice medicine. He also has not had any required continuing medical education.
Physicians in Arizona are required to take 20 hours of continuing medical education each year. "If a doctor seeks to reinstate a license, all of this continuing education must be 'made up,'" Marton told Storts.
The Medical Board also will consider the amount of time the doctor has been away from the practice.
"If this time is overly long, it is not unusual for the Medical Board to require remedial education before the doctor is allowed to return to practice," Marton said in a July 25 letter that Storts included in his motion filed to block the delay.
Schwartz also faces the loss of his privileges at Tucson hospitals, where he was, at times, a successful go-to doctor in emergencies where the loss of sight seemed imminent. "If Dr. Schwartz seeks to reinstate his medical staff privileges at any particular hospital, one factor that will be strongly considered is the amount of time he has been away from the practice," Marton wrote.
Loss of patients, difficult for any doctor who has been sidelined, is made more complicated by "the substantial publicity I understand he has already received," Marton wrote.
Storts told Marton that the delay, if granted, is expected to be as long as six to eight months.
"In my opinion," Marton replied, "a delay of six to eight months beyond Nov. 15 will have a significant adverse impact on Dr. Schwartz's medical license and his ability to reinstate his license and get back to practicing medicine. Dr. Schwartz will face significant challenges no matter when he is reinstated but such a continued delay will make those challenges even worse."