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N.H. medical board rejects killer

Shot man in ’99; sought license

By Lynne Tuohy
Associated Press / May 6, 2010

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CONCORD, N.H. — A Massachusetts doctor convicted of killing his wife’s lover won’t be practicing medicine in New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire Board of Medicine denied an appeal yesterday by Dr. James Kartell, who served nearly eight years in prison for fatally shooting his estranged wife’s boyfriend in 1999 as they argued over who should leave her hospital room.

Kartell, 70, of Andover, Mass., said after the decision he probably will not appeal the board’s ruling to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

“I doubt the Supreme Court would overturn the decision of the board,’’ said Kartell, a plastic surgeon. “Obviously I’m disappointed.’’

Kartell had appealed the board’s Jan. 9, 2009, decision denying reinstatement of his license, and presented witnesses and reference letters at a hearing last month.

The board ruled yesterday that Kartell “does not possess the necessary educational, character, and other professional qualifications to practice medicine.’’

“The act of taking a human life by shooting the individual in the back of the head is inconsistent with the character the board expects of its licensed physicians,’’ the ruling states.

Kartell shot Janos Vajda, 57, first in the abdomen and then in the head as the two men brawled on the floor of Suzan Kamm’s room at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, Mass. Kartell was affiliated with that hospital and several others, including Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua.

A jury found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

“Even a physician has the right to defend himself,’’ Kartell said yesterday. He added that he routinely carried the gun to work “because there are many instances of doctors being attacked at a hospital.’’

The board also ruled that Kartell had violated medical ethics.

“Dr. Kartell displayed poor judgment by bringing a revolver to the hospital room of his estranged wife, becoming involved in a physical altercation with Mr. Vajda, and shooting him in the head,’’ the ruling states. “The board finds this crime is an ethical violation that indicates that Dr. Kartell lacks the character to be a licensed physician in New Hampshire.’’

The state Attorney General’s office opposed reinstatement, saying Kartell failed to disclose his suspension from several hospitals following the shooting and lied about being board-certified on his application. His certification by the American Board of Surgery expired in 1987. He also has not taken any continuing medical education courses since his arrest the day of the shooting — either while in prison or since his release in October 2007. The board cited all those factors in its ruling.

Before his arrest, Kartell was licensed to practice in Massachusetts, New York, Maine, and New Hampshire.

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