Monday, January 24, 2022

Anesthesiologist Who Killed Surgeon Goes To Jail

Just a follow up from a story from back in 2017. Dr. Stephen Kyosung Kim was charged with murder when his patient, Dr. Mark Greenspan, a 71 year old orthopedic surgeon, died after surgery. Blood and urine drug tests showed Dr. Kim had Demerol and Fentanyl in his system at the time of the incident.

Dr. Kim admitted that he had stolen Demerol 50 mg from the Rodeo Drive Plastic Surgery Center in Beverly Hills that morning. He administered a general anesthetic to Dr. Greenspan even though they had discussed using regional anesthesia. Dr. Kim then left the operating room to give himself Demerol and Toradol. He subsequently fell down and hit his head but came back to the OR to finish the case. While in recovery, Dr. Kim overdosed Dr. Greenspan with Demerol and the patient became apneic and went into cardiac arrest. Dr. Kim tried multiple times to intubate Dr. Greenspan but was not successful and the surgeon died. 

The anesthesiologist admitted to the prosecutors that he had a drug addiction and had taken narcotics over 150 times while at work. His medical license was subsequently revoked. After four years, Dr. Kim pleaded guilty on December 2021 to manslaughter and was immediately taken to jail. It is expected that he will return to court in December 2023 and be sentenced to two years of jail time which he will have already served. 

This tragic case once again illustrates the unfortunate link between anesthesiology and drug addiction. It's well known that anesthesiologists have one of the highest incidents of addiction in medicine. I have unfortunately covered multiple incidents of drug addiction among anesthesiologists, including here and here. Eighty percent of US anesthesiology residencies have had at least one drug impaired resident. Almost a fifth of all residencies have experienced the death of a resident due to drug overdose. Male anesthesiologists are considered the highest risk for drug addiction and suicide among all physicians. A deadly combination of high stress work and easy access to narcotics makes drug addiction an ever-present risk of working in the field. If you suspect an anesthesia colleague may have an addiction problem, say something. It may save his, and his patients', lives.


  1. I personally think it is ridiculous to incarcerate nonviolent drug offenders. However, when an anesthesiologist administers anesthesia to a patient under their care and is under the influence, that should be no different than an intoxicated pilot climbing into the cockpit. In both cases, it is a breach of fiduciary duty to the patient or the passengers. Those actions deserve jail time. Over the course of 40 years as an anesthesiologist, I have seen too many examples of anesthesiologists addicted to drugs ( fentanyl being the most common ). I wondered what would make them inject themselves with a highly addictive drug the first time, knowing what they know. I am not a psychiatrist, but I suspect many of those are suffering from sociopathic personality disorder- they know damn well it is wrong but they just don't care.

    1. I agreed with almost everything you said up to the point that you said you are not a psychiatrist. You should have stopped there. Bringing up sociopathy illustrates just how little you understand about addiction. Many Anesthesiologists develop their addiction after a legitimate injury and simply escalate from prescription pills to IM or IV use. Addiction is not a choice. Most human beings suffering from the illness of alcoholism and drug addiction did not choose it. There is also a great deal of room for improvement by the medical community to identify and help at risk individuals before they hurt a patient, themselves or destroy a career after a lifetime of training and hard work.