- Associated Press - Friday, March 14, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Board of Medicine on Friday revoked the license of a doctor who performed surgery on a Montana man who died from an overdose of painkillers the day after his release from a Cody hospital.

The board’s order revokes the license of Dr. John H. Schneider Jr. The board imposed a $25,000 civil fine against Schneider and ordered him to pay more than $124,000 to cover the cost of the proceeding against him.

Schneider performed back surgery at West Park Hospital in Cody in November 2011 on a man the board identifies only as John Doe. The man died at his home in Billings, Mont., the day after he was released.

His relatives filed a federal lawsuit last summer in U.S. District Court in Wyoming claiming negligence by the hospital and medical personnel including Schneider. The lawsuit identified the man who died as Russell Monaco, 47, of Billings.

The board’s order states an autopsy determined the man died of an overdose of painkillers prescribed either by Schneider, his physician’s assistant Harley Morrell, or by both of them. The autopsy found the presence of drugs including the painkillers oxycodone and fentanyl.

Attempts to reach Schneider’s lawyers were unsuccessful Friday.

Schneider had contested the board’s action at a hearing last September and has denied civil liability in the ongoing federal lawsuit. The board’s order states he’s licensed as a physician in Wyoming, Montana and Utah.

The board had suspended Schneider’s license temporarily in early 2012 in response to the man’s death. The board reinstated his license on a limited basis that year.

Morrell had ordered a fentanyl patch to be placed on the man after his surgery, the order states. It states that drug, and the other drugs found in the man’s system, can lead to reduced oxygen levels.

Schneider wrote to the Montana Board of Medicine in early 2012 stating he didn’t authorize the continued use of fentanyl patches on the man. Schneider stated that the man’s death is a tragedy, “and I regret that I had not been made aware of the situation surrounding his discharge so that I could have intervened.”

Morrell has given a written statement that all the medications the man received were under Schneider’s direction and supervision, the order states.

Monaco’s estate made a filing with the Wyoming Medical Review Panel prior to filing its federal lawsuit. According to the filing, the estate, represented by Monaco’s wife and brother, calculated its damages at more than $14 million.

The federal lawsuit named Morrell, Schneider and West Park Hospital and others as defendants. West Park Hospital and a private company that contracts to provide senior hospital management have both filed legal responses denying responsibility.

The plaintiffs and Morrell filed notice with U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl of Casper last week. The notice states Morrell acknowledges the lawsuit’s allegations against him and acknowledges that damages amount to at least $10 million.

Morrell stated he was acting at the direction of Schneider in treating Monaco and that Schneider was responsible for Morrell’s actions. Skavdahl hasn’t acted yet on the request from the estate and Morrell that the judge accept the judgment.

Billings lawyer Jon Moyers represents the Monaco estate.

“We commend the Wyoming Board of Medicine for their extraordinary effort in investigating the unfortunate loss of Russ Monaco and would hope that it would be ordered that the family would finally be compensated for their unfortunate loss,” Moyers said Friday.

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