State places psychiatrist Charles Huffine on probation; permissive attitude toward teen patient

March 14, 2011

The Washington State Department of Health (DoH) placed psychiatrist Charles Huffine on probation for at least five years with terms and conditions due to incompetence, negligence or malpractice constituting unprofessional conduct.

According to DoH documents, Huffine provided treatment to a teenage male with a known history of substance abuse and possible suicide attempt, as well as considerable present-time substance abuse, including alcohol, marijuana, methadone, OxyContin and LSD.

Among the allegations is that, despite an OxyContin overdose and the patient’s admissions of other substance use, escalating family turmoil instigated by the patient, increasing erratic and violent behavior, an auto accident and two citations (one for Minor in Possession), Huffine never pursued urinalysis or other laboratory tests to determine what exactly the patient was taking or how much; never suggested to the patient that he stop using; did nothing to monitor the patient’s use; did not adequately assess the impact of the patient’s substance abuse on his mental health; did not inform the patient’s parents regarding the serious nature of the patient’s substance abuse and did not significantly involve the family in the patient’s treatment.

Further, in response to the patient’s mother’s concerns about his behavior and obvious signs of drug abuse, Huffine did not inform the mother of the “serious level of danger to her son and others.  Instead, he reassured the mother…suggested that he mother should not be so sure about whether the drugs were producing the patient’s…behavior.  He urged her to look beyond the drug issues and see the behavior as complex and affected by psychiatric issues.”  He told the mother that her son was “not ready” to stop using drugs.

Lastly, despite known and very serious substance abuse, Huffine did not recommend more intense substance abuse treatment and on many occasions actually recommended against immediate inpatient treatment.  Ultimately, the boy was found un-arousable from sleep and was taken to the hospital where it was found he’d overdosed on 180 mg of methadone.  He soon after entered substance abuse treatment and did not return to Huffine’s treatment.

Source: Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Final Order and Statement of Charges in the Matter of Charles W. Huffine, M.D., License No. MD00013207, Case No. M2009-349, Washington Dept. of Health Medical Quality Assurance Commission.



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