Ten years ago

In 1998, an emergency room physician named Stephen Nesnidal who was thoroughly drunk ran a red light and t-boned a taxi. One of the occupants was seriously injured. The other was killed.

Nesnidal received a probationary medical license because of a DUI he received in 1993. It became a regular license in 1997. He killed the taxi’s occupant in 1998. As a result, his physician’s license was suspended in 2001 but reinstated in 2003.

I never did understand why DUI isn’t considered a more serious crime in the U.S. And I also wonder why alcoholism seems to be taken less seriously for people in higher-level professions. Riding the commuter train, I notice the smell of alcohol on people’s breath early in the morning. They are dressed conservatively and professionally but reek of liquor.

How did Nesnidal even get a job? I would never hire a doctor who had a probationary license for that reason. I’d be too afraid he’d come to work drunk.

If you were a dockworker, or a truck driver, or a waiter in a restaurant, my guess is that you’d be canned for being drunk. Wonder which ER Nesnidal is working in now?

5 thoughts on “Ten years ago

  1. “I never did understand why DUI isn’t considered a more serious crime in the U.S.”

    Because with the exception of New York City, Boston, and (arguably) D.C., our public transportation system is abysmal in urban centers — but completely non-existent in rich white suburbs. Since all white people have to do it to have a social life, of course it’s not going to be seen as the serious crime that it is.

    “And I also wonder why alcoholism seems to be taken less seriously for people in higher-level professions. ”

    1) They’re rich. 2) Professional schools are as much about teaching students how to be functional alcoholics as they are about teaching students what they need to know to be a professional in their field. (With the exception of law school, which is 1/2 hazing ritual and 1/2 functional alcoholism training. See, e.g., (the now defunct) Barely Legal Blog.)

    “If you were a dockworker, or a truck driver, or a waiter in a restaurant, my guess is that you’d be canned for being drunk. ”

    Functional alcoholics are really, really good at hiding it. Besides, most doctors are used to having repulsive and smelly items spilled/thrown/vomited on them. ER docs and nurses near Universities always come home

  2. (Sorry; it’s late and I hit enter too early.)

    Anyway, they come home smelling like it, and sometimes you can’t get it out in the shower.

    That said, the vast majority of them are still drunk from the night before.

  3. I was shocked at my classmates in dental school who would drive drunk. By some, it was considered 100% acceptable. They wouldn’t even try to hide it. On the contrary, they’d be talking about it in lecture hall the next morning, like it was funny.

    We were in a law office last week, too. The lawyer was drunk off his ass, laughing away. Again, no attempt to hide it.

  4. The woman he killed was my dear friend and co worker Kathy. The devastation he wrought is unspeakable. I cannot believe he got away with it twice. A doctor of all professions….”first do no harm” It eats at me still…

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