Boston Medic Charged With Switching Narcotic Drugs
Nov. 10--The alleged doped-up Boston paramedic authorities say tampered with more than 100 drug vials -- stealing powerful painkillers and then replacing them with other drugs to cover his tracks -- committed a "devastating" breach of the public trust and deserves every last one of the staggering 73 charges leveled against him, according to the city's "disgusted" public health director.
"Disgusted is absolutely the right word," Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission said yesterday after Brian Benoit, 40, pleaded not guilty in Suffolk Superior Court, where he was released on no bail but ordered not to work as an EMT or paramedic.
"Paramedics take an oath ... and he completely violated that," Ferrer added. "It's beyond belief to me."
Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Michele Granda said nurses and Benoit's co-workers at Boston EMS noticed track marks on his arm that "looked like drug use" and a drop in his skills during the summer of 2011, when authorities said Benoit swiped narcotics including morphine and fentanyl from as many as 106 vials, and often replaced them -- both on and off duty -- with substances including saline and vitamin B.
Health officials said in October they had concerns the alleged tampering put 57 patients at risk of blood-borne illnesses, but Granda said yesterday there appear to be no "disease transmissions" and that the number of people given diluted medications is likely closer to 10.
Granda also acknowledged that Benoit, who is on unpaid suspension, tested negative for infectious diseases including HIV and Hepatitis C -- a screening, his lawyer Thomas Drechsler shot back, was only done at his request.
Drechsler said his client, who left the courthouse without comment, "vehemently and vigorously denies these allegations" and that he is not a drug addict.
Drechsler then went on the offensive, saying he'll attack the motives of Benoit's co-workers before slamming the city for holding a press conference in October warning the public about possible infections without even testing Benoit.
Ferrer said the press conference was held "out of an abundance of caution," and called Drechsler's comments an apparent smoke screen for "the crimes that were committed."
Nick Martin, a spokesman for the health commission, said the situation prompted Boston EMS to change protocol, including adding new training for paramedics and supervisors to detect tampering, as well as extra safeguards and oversight of used vials.
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