WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - The state attorney general's office is recommending lifting the license suspension of a Delaware doctor who came under scrutiny during the investigation of an abortion clinic run by a Philadelphia doctor now serving life in prison for murder.
Deputy Attorney General Katisha Fortune said at a hearing Monday that state officials believe a three-year suspension served by Dr. Arturo Apolinario is sufficient, and that they are not recommending further discipline.
"The state does feel that the three-year suspension already served by the doctor is appropriate," she told a hearing officer for the medical licensing board.
Adam Balick, an attorney for Apolinario, agreed, saying his client is in his mid-70s and retired.
"Dr. Apolinario is not going to practice medicine again, but it would be nice for him to end his career by retiring and surrendering the license," Balick said.
Apolinario did not attend Monday's hearing. The hearing officer will submit recommendations to the licensing board, which will make the final decision.
In a stipulation of facts submitted by Apolinario and Attorney General Beau Biden's office, Apolinario admitted engaging in unethical behavior and misconduct by continuing to prescribe drugs from mid-2009 to February 2011 after his controlled-substances registration had lapsed.
But a third amended complaint filed by Biden's office earlier this month makes no mention of previous claims that Apolinario failed to properly supervise Dr. Kermit Gosnell and failed to report Gosnell's illegal and unprofessional conduct.
"The Department of Justice is taking this action after reassessing the evidence supporting allegations that Dr. Apolinario was aware of Gosnell's conduct," Biden spokesman Joe Rogalsky said in an emailed statement.
Gosnell was convicted in Pennsylvania last year of killing three babies with scissors who were born alive. He also was convicted of manslaughter in a patient's overdose death, and of performing illegal third-term abortions.
Following Gosnell's arrest in January 2011, Delaware officials sought to suspend Apolinario's license, accusing him of not reporting Gosnell for performing late-term abortions at Atlantic Womens' Medical Services in Wilmington and of prescribing drugs illegally.
Apolinario was described as the medical director of Atlantic Women's abortion clinics in Dover and Wilmington, where authorities said Gosnell also practiced until his license was suspended in March 2010.
In issuing an emergency suspension of Apolinario's license in March 2011, officials pointed to allegations by Biden's office that Apolinario was directly involved in some of Gosnell's alleged behavior.
"Dr. Apolinario failed to adequately perform his duties as medical director, permitting Dr. Gosnell to engage in illegal and unethical behavior under his supervision and, ultimately, putting patients at grave risk," Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock, whose department oversees professional licensing and regulation, said at the time.
Officials alleged among other things that patients who paid Atlantic Wilmington for illegal, late-term abortions were transferred after initial exams and procedures to Gosnell's Philadelphia clinic for completion of the procedures. They said Apolinario "knew or should have known" that Gosnell and the Philadelphia clinic posed a great danger to patients because of "deplorable conditions," substandard care and improper administration of drugs.
Authorities also alleged that, as laboratory director of the Wilmington clinic, Apolinario failed to take reasonable steps to prevent Gosnell from removing or destroying reports and willfully disregarded his duty to report Gosnell's unprofessional conduct.
In response, Balick said the state's case against Apolinario was one of "guilt by association," adding that the two men did not work together and rarely even saw each other.