A former Liberty Township surgeon will have a chance to get back to work after a judge sentenced him to three years of probation on Friday for forging his co-workers signatures to write himself prescriptions for painkillers to fuel a drug addiction.
Paul Sresthadatta, 41, pleaded guilty last month to nine counts of deception to obtain a dangerous drug — eight counts were fourth-degree felonies and one was a third-degree felony. Because of the way Ohio sentencing law is structured, Sresthadatta was able to avoid prison in large part because he is a first-time offender and because the most serious crime he faced was a third-degree felony.
However, the third-degree felony also meant Sresthadatta was not eligible for a court program for first-time offenders that would have seen the charges against him dropped if he were to successfully complete drug treatment, among other conditions.
Common Pleas Judge Everett H. Krueger on Friday ordered Sresthadatta to perform 250 hours of community service, suspended his drivers license for two years and ordered him to pay a $2,250 fine plus court costs.
He also required Sresthadatta to attend three substance abuse-related meetings a week, a condition Sresthadatta is already meeting through an agreement with the Ohio State Medical Board.
Sresthadatta lost his medical license after his crimes first surfaced last December. The medical board gave it back on a 5-year probationary basis as long as the former doctor completed ongoing drug training and screening, Sresthadatta told Krueger.
Krueger said he expected Sresthadatta would not end up in court again.
“What your case, past cases in this court and a parade of drug cases in general on a daily basis demonstrate is that addiction affects everybody, regardless of gender, ethnicity or social status,” Krueger said.
Sresthadatta became addicted to painkillers in 2009 after he was prescribed them for legitimate medical reasons, according to his attorney, Stephen H. Palmer. When his prescriptions ran out, he began writing his own illegally.
Sresthadatta job as an attending surgeon at Grant Medical Center and Doctors Hospital sometime after his conduct came to light. He plans to apply for a new job, Palmer said.
Sresthadatta, who appeared in court Friday wearing a dark-colored blazer with brass buttons and a navy blue tie, told Krueger being confronted on his addiction has forced him to re-evaluate his priorities and assess the damage he’s caused to people in his life.
“Being a physician is part of the fabric of my soul, and not being able to practice has been a humbling experience,” Sresthadatta said.