Anesthesiologist gets suspended sentence for felony drug charg

Sunday, August 17, 2003

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- An anesthesiologist who was found passed out last September in a doctor's lounge at Heartland Regional Medical Center after injecting drugs has been given a suspended sentence.

The decision Friday by Buchanan County Circuit Judge Weldon Judah means Eric Jorgensen, 42, has a chance to regain his medical license. After he completes three years of probation, the felony drug charge will be wiped from his criminal record.

Jorgensen's lawyer, Joseph Morrey, had asked Judah for the suspended sentence because a conviction would cause Jorgensen to lose his medical license for good.

"If he comes back as a doctor, he'll be a clean doctor," said Joseph Morrey, Jorgensen's attorney.

Jorgensen pleaded guilty in June to felony drug possession. Hospital staff found him passed out in the doctors' lounge on Sept. 2, 2002, with two syringes -- one still containing liquid -- nearby. A bottle containing the liquid drug fentanyl, an anesthetic, also was found near Jorgensen.

Fentanyl is a drug often abused by anesthesiologists because it's readily available, according to the Addiction Recovery Institute. Small amounts of the drug, which is about 80 times as potent as morphine, are euphoric to the user.

Before working at Heartland, Jorgensen was an anesthesiologist at Northwest Missouri Anesthesia in St. Joseph. He worked at Heartland from October 2001 to September 2002.

'Can't take risks like this'

Assistant Buchanan County prosecutor Dawn Williams said she agreed to the suspended sentence because Jorgensen had voluntarily surrendered his medical license and was undergoing treatment for his addiction.

"He's willing to take responsibility for his actions," Williams said.

Judah warned Jorgensen that if he messed up again, he wouldn't get off so easily.

"You just can't take risks like this," the judge said. "If you violate your probation, you go to jail. This is your one shot in this courtroom."

Jorgensen will be on probation for three years and will have to complete 250 hours of community service. He'll also spend 30 days in Buchanan County Jail for "shock time."

"I want you to see what it's going to be like," Judah said. "You've got to see this place."

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