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 Post subject: Sri Lankan anesthesiologist arrested in Nashville
 Post Posted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 5:59 am 
Sri Lankan anesthesiologist arrested in Nashville

Visuvalingam Vilvarajah a native of Sri Lanka, was arrested along with his partner, Mirielle Lalanne, by Nashville Metro police on Wednesday on charges of engaging in organized crime, assault and wanton endangerment. Before this week's arrest on charges of drug-related organized crime in Kentucky, the anesthesiologist Visuvalingam Vilvarajah was a convicted murderer in Tennessee.

By Kate Howard • THE TENNESSEAN • February 6, 2009

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, Vilvarajah didn't slip through the cracks. "There is nothing in the law that would prevent a medical professional's ability to practice medicine from being reinstated," said Health Department spokeswoman Andrea Turner. "It really comes down to the nature of the conviction, the specifics of the case and the discretion of the board."

Turner said none of the current board members were on the board in 1993 when Tennessee reinstated his license. No current members can comment on this case because they may be asked to discipline Vilvarajah after his most recent charges.

Vilvarajah, a native of Sri Lanka, was arrested along with his partner, Mirielle Lalanne, by Metro police on Wednesday on charges of engaging in organized crime, assault and wanton endangerment. The pair provided prescriptions for large quantities of drugs knowing they weren't for patients' personal use, according to the indictment from Kentucky. They're also accused of prescribing painkillers to a pregnant woman whose baby was born addicted to the drugs.

During the course of the investigation, the sheriff in Harlan County, Ky., found that about 350 people in the area carried prescriptions from the two Nashville doctors. The drugs included several types of painkillers, including OxyContin and methadone.

No charges have been filed in Tennessee, and the two are awaiting extradition. If convicted, they could face up to 75 years in prison.

He was convicted in 1986
The day of the murders, Vilvarajah was quiet and acting normal, said Ed Palmer, who was a patrol sergeant in Germantown, Tenn., who responded to the crime scene.

"I don't remember him saying anything at all," said Palmer, now police chief in Pipertown, Tenn.

According to the Tennessee Department of Correction, Vilvarajah was convicted in 1986 on two charges of second-degree murder. He served five years of a 20-year sentence.

According to Palmer, the doctor was living in a house with his wife and ex-wife in West Tennessee and had hired a security guard to keep the women apart. His ex-wife was staying in the house to care for their daughter. He learned his wife was about to leave him and shot her and her mother in the head, according to news reports.

License reinstated
"It astonishes me that he is still practicing, to be quite frank," Palmer said. "It astonishes me that he only did five years in the penitentiary for murdering two people."

When his medical license was reinstated in 1993, Vilvarajah was granted a probationary license. He was restricted to practicing at one hospital and ordered to appear before the state medical board annually. The next year, he was allowed to practice at more hospitals but still only anesthesiology. In 1997, he was allowed to join a family practice, and in 2001, all restrictions on Vilvarajah's license were lifted.

The board exists partly to protect society from negligence and also to protect it from the powerful knowledge doctors possess, said Joshua Perry, an assistant professor in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society.

Perry said allowing doctors to practice after homicide convictions might hamper the trust relationship doctors have with patients.

"A doctor who has been convicted of a homicide has demonstrated a failure to use appropriately a physician's power and specialized knowledge," said Perry, also a law professor who teaches professional responsibility.

"I, therefore, find it difficult to understand how the board could fulfill their mandate to protect society and the sense of public confidence and trust in physicians by reinstating the license of someone convicted of homicide."


Contact Kate Howard at 615-726-8968 or kahoward@tennessean.com.


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