Seau's doctor vows to fight state board's claims

Posted at 6:56 PM, May 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-02 21:56:09-04

SAN DIEGO - Dr. David Chao, who treated Chargers linebacker Junior Seau for years, told a local sports radio station that he is not responsible for the football star's 2012 death.

"I failed him as a friend because I didn't see it coming," Chao said during an interview on Mighty 1090.

The interview took place four years to the day after Seau, his friend and patient committed suicide at his Oceanside home.

The California Medical Board is trying to revoke Chao's license based on five accusations linked to Seau's death. A document signed April 27 by the board's executive director claims Chao was negligent and unprofessional by prescribing sleeping pills to Seau despite warning signs like insomnia and depression.

Two years after Seau's death, Team 10 was the first to first reveal Chao prescribed Ambien to Seau before his death, and the drug maker's warning that caution should be used in prescribing it to patients exhibiting signs or symptoms of depression.

Investigators found Chao prescribed Ambien to Seau 14 times in the 18 months before Seau shot himself, without conducting physical examinations or keeping accurate records.

"It certainly upset me a lot because it was very personal," Chao told the sports radio audience during a 15-minute interview. "This was one of my best friends and there was no way I would ever do anything to harm him."

Chao also claimed the Ambien issue was put to rest after Seau's autopsy.

"Even at the time of his death, the coroner ruled out Ambien as a cause or factor, so I'm not really sure why four years later, at the anniversary of his death, that this would all come up again," Chao said.

Chao told listeners he and Seau forged a friendship during the years he was the Chargers team doctor. They were even closer after they left the team.

Chao visited Seau in the hospital after he drove his car off a cliff in Carlsbad, and the doctor recalled: "He convinced me he was not trying to kill himself, and he denied it to me multiple times then and at later times, too. Obviously, in retrospect, I was fooled."

Chao and his attorney said they plan to fight the accusations.

Attorney Robert Frank sent Team 10 a statement, which reads, in part:

"I have never seen such dogged pursuit of a highly skilled and competent physician in my 36 years of legal practice representing physicians before the Medical Board. I have no worries of a successful defense of the spurious accusations about malpractice causing Seau’s death. Dr Chao remains in practice and I am more than confident that status will not change in the future. Dr Chao is thankful for the public outpouring of support from his patients, including dozens of professional athletes. Dr. Chao has nothing to hide."

No date has been set for Chao's administrative hearing.