By Jill Sederstrom
A former Colorado doctor was sentenced to 30 days behind bars after he pleaded guilty to choking a nurse in a recovery room full of patients after she objected to him turning off patient vital signs machines.
Mark Randle Ryan, 58, was also sentenced to three years of deferred judgement, three years of probation, 100 hours of community service, mental health treatment and anger management therapy for the incident, according to a statement from the District Attorney’s office of the 18th Judicial District.
“This happened in front of other patients and in front of other professionals,” Judge Theresa Slade told Ryan during the sentencing. “When you did this to (the nurse), she couldn’t care for other patients, and you put them at risk. You don’t get to act this way, ever.”
Ryan had been working as a contract anesthesiologist at Sky Ridge Medical Center on Oct. 8, 2018 when prosecutors said he and a charge nurse—who has been identified as Beth Duche—got into argument after Ryan began turning off vital-sign machines for patients who were recovering from surgery.
Ryan contended that the continuous beeping from the machines was creating “alarm fatigue” for the nurses but Duche disagreed and intervened, according to local station KCNC-TV.
Ryan grabbed the nurse by her throat and squeezed it so hard she would later tell Lone Tree police officers that she saw stars.
In court Monday, Ryan said that he had “blacked out” and didn’t remember the attack clearly.
“It’s hard to believe I blacked out but I really did,” he said, according to the local station. “All I could tell was that my hands were around, feel your jaw, feel throat, soft tissues—I did not know what was going on. I remember separating hands away from the throat.”
Duche—who said she has suffered from PTSD, panic attacks and insomnia after the incident—said she believed at the time that Ryan was going to kill her.
“I was assaulted by a colleague who took a Hippocratic Oath to do no harm. No amount of stress Mr. Ryan was experiencing in his life should make him snap to that extent,” she said.
She had argued that Ryan should receive the maximum punishment, 90 days behind bars.
Ryan pleaded guilty on March 9 to one count of second-degree assault by strangulation and one count of third-degree assault, prosecutors said.
He has already relinquished his medical license.
“Few people in society have as much responsibility as the medical professionals we trust to treat us in the hospital. This defendant was an anesthesiologist, who worked in stressful situations every day to monitor patients during surgery,” District Attorney George Brauchler said in the release. “No occupation, regardless of stress, provides an excuse for assault, especially strangulation. The message here is clear: Teacher, electrician, attorney or doctor … viciously attack a coworker and go to jail.”
Ryan is scheduled to begin his jail time Thursday.
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By Jill Sederstrom