Florida state regulators recently suspended the license of a South Florida psychiatrist who has been linked to the death of a 12-year-old autistic boy who allegedly died of a medication overdose. That man, Dr. Steven L. Kaplan has worked with hundreds of poor and disabled children in Florida, but failed to follow protocols meant to protect vulnerable patients. In fact, according to the Florida Surgeon General, Ana M. Viamonte Ros, Dr. Kaplan poses “an immediate serious danger to the health, safety, and welfare of the public”, which spurred the emergency suspension of the doctor’s license.
The emergency order came just three weeks after another state department, the Agency for Health Care Administration, booted Kaplan from the state Medicaid program. According to the Surgeon General’s complaint, Dr. Kaplan committed medical malpractice in his treatment of Denis Maltez, the 12-year-old boy with Autism. The Surgeon General was able to arrive at this conclusion after receiving a medical examiner’s report that showed that the boy died of a mental health medication overdose.
Doctor Kaplan’s license suspension takes effect immediately, while the Medicaid boot takes effect on May 17. However, Dr. Kaplan has 30 days to appeal the order. According to the order to suspend Kaplan’s license, which was issued by the state Department of Health, Dr. Kaplan failed on several counts to protect Denis Maltez. For example, the Miami Herald recently reported:
• Kaplan failed to perform a physical examination of the boy, failed to develop a treatment plan, failed to document the boy’s mental health history and did not conduct a psychiatric assessment.
• Kaplan “made no attempt” to verify information given to him by Rainbow Ranch’s owner that Denis had been abandoned by his mother, and never sought her consent to treat the boy. “Dr. Kaplan unreasonably relied solely on the reports of a virtually unknown non-health care provider for information regarding [Denis'] complex condition and care.”
• Kaplan did not perform blood tests to ensure that Denis was not being harmed by the mental health drugs he prescribed — assuming, instead, that the tests were being done by Denis’ pediatrician. The pediatrician saw Denis only twice a year, and the necessary blood work was never done.
• Though reviewers with the University of South Florida warned Kaplan on July 24, 2006, that his prescribing of mental-health drugs to four children, including Denis, was problematic, “Kaplan did not respond to the notice, nor did he follow-up with [Denis] through laboratory testing, communication with [Denis'] former psychiatrists, or further assessment.”
• Kaplan insisted that he saw Denis in his office on a couple of occasions, but he had no records to document the office visits.