Former Owensboro nurse Karla King pleaded guilty to wire fraud in federal court last week, but she is also the defendant in a medical malpractice suit filed by Deborah Blandford.
Deborah, also of Owensboro, filed the suit after her husband, James A. “Tony” Blandford, 58, died of a heart attack in November 2016.
King will be sentenced for her wire fraud case in January 2019 and is expected to receive the U.S. attorney’s recommendation of probation.
According to Ronald Johnson, attorney for Deborah, King treated her Owensboro patients with testosterone when lab results did not indicate a medical need for the hormone. Johnson said that testosterone therapy has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when testosterone levels are below 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). A normal range for testosterone in men is between 300 and 900 ng/dL, Johnson said. Tony’s levels were 600 ng/dL at the time of his testosterone treatment with King, according to Johnson.
“She thinks she is helping people,” Johnson said. “But basically she doesn’t care what testosterone levels are.”
Johnson says by the time Tony had received three treatments from King, his testosterone levels were “literally off the charts.” Johnson explained that lab tests can only measure 1,500 ng/dL, and Tony’s labs exceeded that level.
When men’s testosterone levels push above 1,500 ng/dL, the risk is amplified for heart attack, Johnson said.
“I’m sure there are many other men that she treated,” Johnson said. “If they are alive, they have not put it together. If they are not alive, their widows have not realized the connection.”
Johnson alleges that King was treating men with testosterone through Balanced Life Medicine if they showed any symptoms of low testosterone, which could include weight gain, fatigue, lack of strength or lack of sex drive. Johnson said even if lab testing did not indicate low testosterone levels, King still administered hormone therapy.
“Not only was she treating them for something they did not need, she wasn’t treating them for what they did need,” Johnson said, giving the example that extreme fatigue could be a result of leukemia.
These facts have all been outlined in the civil suit that Deborah has filed. According to 2017 Senate Bill 4, a medical review panel is required in all malpractice cases in Kentucky. The panel is made up of three independent, practicing Kentucky physicians. In King’s review, Johnson says the panel included an endocrinologist, urologist and cardiologist. In early October, these three unanimously found that King “failed to comply with the appropriate standard of care” which was a substantial factor in “producing a negative outcome for the patient.”
Johnson said this is the first time he is aware of that the review panel unanimously sided with the plaintiff. He says he typically sees unanimous decisions in favor of the medical professional.
“Doctors are typically incentivized to defend their own profession,” Johnson said.
Deloris Pate, an Owensboro native who was also represented by Johnson, filed a similar civil suit against King in 2015. The suit accused King of malpractice after treating Deloris’ husband, James Pate, 60, who also died of a heart attack. James received testosterone replacement therapy from King through Global Artistry Aesthetics Training & Education, which was the name of King’s practice prior to Balanced Life Medicine.
Deloris’ case was dismissed because a settlement was reached weeks before trial, Johnson said. A confidentiality agreement between parties did not allow Johnson to disclose any details of the settlement.
The Owensboro Times reached Craig Johnson, King’s attorney in the Blandford case, who said it was his firm’s policy not to comment on ongoing cases. The next hearing date for this case has not been set.