Kentucky Surgeon Goes to Trial After Failed Drug Test
Michael Heilig, M.D., a Kentucky-based orthopedic surgeon, is facing legal consequences after a positive drug test following surgery and several subsequent lawsuits.
In 2018, the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure restricted Dr. Heilig’s license. The board and Dr. Heilig agreed to the order restricting his license.
According to a stipulation of facts included in the order, Winchester, Kentucky-based Clark Regional Medical Center suspended Dr. Heilig’s privileges and placed him on leave due to “concerns of possible impairment in the hospital’s operating room.”
The concerns came following a morning of nearly three surgeries. The nurse in the operating room at the time stated that Dr. Heilig "almost fell like he lost his balance" and "was talking a little weird" during the first surgery. By the third surgery, the nurse stated that Dr. Heilig was "walking backwards like stumbling with his eyes closed and mumbling" and he "went to sit on a stool and almost missed the stool."
Dr. Heilig did not complete the third surgery. However, he did submit to a drug screening before being sent home that day. The drug screen revealed the presence of “alpha-hydroxy-alprazolam, noroxycodone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone.”
Since that time at least 11 lawsuits have been filed against Dr. Heilig. The first lawsuit to go to trial was filed by Rebecca Pritchard. Her lawsuit listed additional defendants including Kentucky Orthopedic Associates, Clark Regional Medical Center, and Lifepoint of Kentucky.
Pritchard was a former patient who underwent hip replacement surgery by Dr. Heilig two days before the failed drug test. Pritchard alleged that she suffered complications from her surgery. She claimed that Dr. Heilig should not have been allowed to perform her hip replacement surgery and that he was not fit for surgery.
Dr. Heilig denied all of Pritchard’s allegations. However, after deliberating for just a few hours, the jury awarded Pritchard $800,000.