Monday, August 11, 2003

'Expert witness' not licensed

Psychiatrist gave opinions on committing people to mental hospitals

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A psychiatrist who testified hundreds of times in Ohio courtrooms on whether people should be committed to mental institutions had not renewed his license since 1976, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Lawyers used John G. Randall's expert opinion in Franklin County Probate Court and in courtrooms in other Ohio counties. He was called upon so often that, since 1998, Franklin County had paid him $205,900, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

"I have a reason, but I'd rather not talk to you about this at all," the 73-year-old told the newspaper. He could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Practicing medicine without a license is against the law, said Tom Dilling, executive director of the State Medical Board. Randall has not been charged with the crime, a fifth-degree felony, Dilling said.

J. Michael Evans, Randall's attorney, said the medical board told him there are no plans to charge Randall. Dilling said confidentiality rules prohibit him from saying whether the case was referred to the county prosecutor.

In February, Randall agreed to have his medical license permanently revoked, Dilling said.

"We have taken the most serious form of action that we possibly can by telling someone that they cannot be licensed here permanently," he said.

Franklin County Probate Judge Lawrence Belskis said Randall has been on the court-appointed list for more than 20 years and was involved in hundreds of cases.

A psychiatrist's testimony "has significant input" in a judge's decision whether to commit someone to a mental hospital, Belskis said. The testimony of a licensed physician is needed to commit someone against his will.

After discovering that Randall was not licensed, the court reviewed all his cases where someone remains institutionalized or hospitalized. There were fewer than a dozen.

"We had a supplemental hearing in those cases to verify that everything was appropriate, and everything was," Belskis said. "Most of these patients are in the hospital a short period of time and then released after they stabilize."

Evans said Randall took an extended leave of absence from the medical profession in the mid-1970s, for reasons unclear to the attorney.

When Randall decided to start practicing again, he didn't renew his license, Evans said.

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