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Junior Seau's doctor-buddy could lose license

Medical board files accusations against David Chao (again)

David Chao
David Chao

Former Chargers physician and close friend of the late Junior Seau, David Jee Wei Chao, M.D., is in trouble with the Medical Board of California once again. An accusation was filed against him April 27.

In 2012, the medical board issued a public reprimand against Chao after the doctor was convicted of a crime related to medicine involving "dishonest and corrupt acts." In 2014, Chao was placed on five years of probation for gross and repeated negligence and "dishonest and corrupt acts."

The latest accusation goes into detail on Chao's relationship with former Charger Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012 (tomorrow, May 2, marks the anniversary of his death).

In 2014, Chao was interviewed by investigators about his relationship with Seau. Chao explained that over the years, he and Seau developed "a close and personal friendship." At one time, Chao and Seau, along with other friends, had a pact that they would try to prevent anyone in the group from committing suicide.

In October of 2010, a car driven by Seau veered off a cliff in Carlsbad. The same morning, Seau had been arrested and released from jail on suspicion of assault in an incident that involved his girlfriend. Chao visited Seau the day of the accident and asked him if driving off the cliff was an attempted suicide. Seau denied that it was and Chao accepted the football player's explanation.

In the last 18 months of Seau's life, Chao wrote 14 prescriptions for him for Ambien, a controlled substance. "Ambien has central nervous system depressant effects and its use can potentially worsen symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts," says the medical board. Chao had also written Ambien prescriptions to Seau while he was still playing in the National Football League. Chao declared that Seau was "without depression or any other psychological issues" one week before the player took his life.

However, Chao failed to document an appropriate history of Seau's use of the controlled substance, says the medical board. Also, Chao failed to consult with another medical provider during the period Seau was getting treatment with a controlled substance.

Chao has been in the news in the past. In April of 2013, deadspin.com had a headline: "Chargers' Doctor Is a Drunk Quack. Why Haven't They Fired Him?"

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David Chao
David Chao

Former Chargers physician and close friend of the late Junior Seau, David Jee Wei Chao, M.D., is in trouble with the Medical Board of California once again. An accusation was filed against him April 27.

In 2012, the medical board issued a public reprimand against Chao after the doctor was convicted of a crime related to medicine involving "dishonest and corrupt acts." In 2014, Chao was placed on five years of probation for gross and repeated negligence and "dishonest and corrupt acts."

The latest accusation goes into detail on Chao's relationship with former Charger Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012 (tomorrow, May 2, marks the anniversary of his death).

In 2014, Chao was interviewed by investigators about his relationship with Seau. Chao explained that over the years, he and Seau developed "a close and personal friendship." At one time, Chao and Seau, along with other friends, had a pact that they would try to prevent anyone in the group from committing suicide.

In October of 2010, a car driven by Seau veered off a cliff in Carlsbad. The same morning, Seau had been arrested and released from jail on suspicion of assault in an incident that involved his girlfriend. Chao visited Seau the day of the accident and asked him if driving off the cliff was an attempted suicide. Seau denied that it was and Chao accepted the football player's explanation.

In the last 18 months of Seau's life, Chao wrote 14 prescriptions for him for Ambien, a controlled substance. "Ambien has central nervous system depressant effects and its use can potentially worsen symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts," says the medical board. Chao had also written Ambien prescriptions to Seau while he was still playing in the National Football League. Chao declared that Seau was "without depression or any other psychological issues" one week before the player took his life.

However, Chao failed to document an appropriate history of Seau's use of the controlled substance, says the medical board. Also, Chao failed to consult with another medical provider during the period Seau was getting treatment with a controlled substance.

Chao has been in the news in the past. In April of 2013, deadspin.com had a headline: "Chargers' Doctor Is a Drunk Quack. Why Haven't They Fired Him?"

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Comments
19

There is indeed something very wrong with the medical licensing system in California when a physician with his record is allowed to continue to practice. Many professions do a poor job of policing their ranks, but the powers and respect we allocate to physicians demand that bad doctors be removed. In fact, we might ask why he isn't imprisoned now.

May 2, 2016

Visduh: So-called self-regulation of doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professionals is indeed lacking in many ways. Self-regulation of Wall Street hasn't worked well, either. Best, Don Bauder

May 2, 2016

@Don, the California Medical Board is a state law enforcement agency with full investigative powers. I don't think that can fairly be described as self regulation. Any member of the public can complain, and the complaint will be looked into. The Board files accusations quite often, and all records are public. Most practitioners know that a Medical Board accusation is a very serious issue, and all adverse actions against their license are reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank to prevent a bad doctor from moving to another state and setting up shop. If you meant to refer to in-house hospital peer-review, which is strictly confidential and not subject to civil discovery, you may be on to something. Have a great day.

May 3, 2016

qpodad: You make a good point. The state medical board does not represent self-regulation. The Bar is basically self-regulation although the state Supreme Court makes the final decision. The financial industry would claim its regulation is not self-regulation, but I would argue with that. The government regulators (state financial departments and the SEC) are weak. I should have been clearer.

I remember when Nixon (or was it Reagan?) favored self-regulation for Wall Street I almost gagged. Best, Don Bauder

May 3, 2016

I have had a couple of experiences with these so-called "boards." They are hostile to complaints. They do not follow up. They blame the victim. They take the side of their members and become defensive about your complaint. They are a "membership" like the Bar Association, and they protect their members, first and foremost.

May 3, 2016

Ponzi: A good example is financial industry arbitrations. They are stacked in favor of the industry. Best, Don Bauder

May 4, 2016

Good point. It's tough to sell any Board who depends on membership dues for funding as truly and independent regulator of its own members.

May 4, 2016

qpodad: That is true, but there are other factors for the pro-industry, anti-consumer bias. Among those factors: those who are chosen as arbiters are generally from the industry. They are sympathetic with the industry and actually may want to go back in it.

Similarly, the lawyers at the Securities and Exchange Commission either come from Wall Street law firms, or are angling for a job with a Wall Street firm. Best, Don Bauder

May 4, 2016

Still common practice to over-prescribe to football players and lie about it, I guess.

May 2, 2016

shirleyberan: Coaches, team physicians, and players lying about drugs the players take is par for the course. What about the lies team owners throw out when trying to get corporate welfare? Best, Don Bauder

May 2, 2016

Ambien is often prescribed for sleeplessness, depending on the amount prescribed, this doesn't seem so excessive. Usually they refer to a psychiatrist. We should remember that football scrambled Mr. Seau's brain, as revealed by autopsy. Finding blame after a suicide is normal, but we should remember that the minds of those who do it lack a normal sense of consequences. He might have attempted suicide before he ever took Ambien. Thousands of football players suffered terrible brain damage, while doctors failed to notice. I won't defend Dr. Chao without hearing more, but there is plenty of guilt in football medicine, and this is not the pill party locker room we used to hear about.

May 2, 2016

Psycholizard: Yes, Seau did not have adequate sleep throughout his time as a player, according to Chao, as related in the accusation. Ambien is prescribed for sleep problems. Ambien itself does not have a great reputation, although that is not stressed in the accusation.

Yes, it is apparent from the accusation that the medical board believes Chao should have referred Seau to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Best, Don Bauder

May 2, 2016

Too many generalizations and no enough specifics--one definition of gossip, malicious, sensationalist, or otherwise. Too early for a feeding frenzy.

May 2, 2016

Flapper: It's always too early for a feeding frenzy. I think the accusation is fair and balanced. Best, Don Bauder

May 3, 2016

qpodad: Yes, that is the accusation. We considered posting it but didn't. Best, Don Bauder

May 3, 2016

I understand why you would not post it. If you are not sure what an "Accusation" represents it may be misunderstood as a final decision or judgment. As always, thanks for the informative articles. Keep them coming please!

May 4, 2016

qpodad: We hope to get through to our readers that accusations are only accusations. In criminal cases, one of the oldest aphorisms applies: innocent until proven guilty. Best, Don Bauder

May 4, 2016

As a patient, I found Dr. Chau to be an excellent, meticulous, and caring surgeon with an amazing staff of MDs and RNs. I tore my pectoral muscle weight lifting. Dr. Chau saw me promptly and arranged for a quick surgery since I could not lift one of my arms. I asked him if I should have an MRI, he could tell I was nervous about surgery because he responded "YOu can have an MRI but you still need surgury"; this put me at ease. After surgery, he and his staff called me by phone multiple times to check on post surgical complications and progress. They insisted I come to the office for regular detailed examinations. Within 1 year, I was able to go back all full strength with all my athletic activities and again bench pressing 275; such a complete recovery for someone over 50 is quite good if not remarkable. I could not be more appreciative of Dr. Chau and hope he will continue to practice medicine so I can have the opportunity to seek his help for my next athletic mistake. Dr. Chau, if you are reading this, I would like to again personally thank you and your staff for all your help.

May 11, 2016

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