The Vietnamese doctor who was thrust into the international spotlight this week after he was dragged from an overbooked United Airlines flight against his will was reportedly convicted of multiple felony drugs charges in 2004.
Videos taken Sunday by other passengers showing Dr. David Dao being forcibly removed on a Louisville-bound flight at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago sparked a social media firestorm against the airline.
United apologized for the “upsetting event” and said Tuesday that “we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.”
The airline was asking already seated passengers to voluntarily give up their seats in order to make room for four employees of a partner airline who needed to get to Kentucky. Witnesses said United offered as much as $800, but no one volunteered to deplane. The airline then resorted to using a computer to randomly select the passengers to be removed, and Dr. Dao was one of the four chosen.
He refused to leave willingly, and after some discussion, security officials boarded the plane and forcibly removed him, sparking an outpouring of support for the pulmonologist, who reportedly said during the altercation that he had to get home to care for patients the next day.
According to the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Dr. Dao is a pulmonologist, a physician who specializes in treating respiratory conditions, in Elizabethtown and he was arrested in 2003 and convicted the next year of multiple drug-related offenses after an undercover investigation.
According to documents filed with the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, Dr. Dao was involved in fraudulent prescriptions for controlled substances and was involved with a man whom he arranged to trade prescription drugs for sexual acts, the New York Post reported.
Mr. Dao, who went to medical school in Vietnam in the 1970s before moving to the U.S., was convicted of multiple felony counts of obtaining drugs by fraud or deceit in November 2004 and placed on five years of supervised probation in January 2005, the Courier-Journal reported.
In February 2005, Dr. Dao surrendered his medical license to the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure. In 2015, the board lifted the suspension and allowed him to practice medicine with some restrictions, the report said.
While the report shines a light on Dr. Dao’s checkered medical career, it does not suggest that his past is in any way connected to Sunday’s incident.
An attorney for Dr. Dao, who is currently being treated for his reported injuries at a Chicago hospital, issued a statement on the doctor’s behalf Tuesday afternoon.
“The family of Dr. Dao wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern and support they have received. Currently, they are focused only on Dr. Dao’s medical care and treatment,” Chicago attorney Stephen Golan said.
United CEO Oscar Munoz on Monday sent a letter to employees saying the passenger, who had not yet been identified, was being “disruptive and belligerent” and that employees “followed established procedures” when removing him from the plane. On Tuesday, Mr. Munoz changed his tune and issued a statement promising customers to “fix what’s broken” so something like this “never happens again.”
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