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PHYSICIAN A STEP CLOSER TO REGAINING LICENSE

An Ogden pediatrician convicted of manslaughter in the 1989 death of a Sunset woman he treated as a patient is a step closer to having his medical license reinstated.

Sherman B. Johnson told the state Physicians Licensing Board on Wednesday he has come to terms with the co-dependent nature of his 14-year relationship with Donna Jones, which ended in her death, at age 33, from a lethal dose of Demerol administered by Johnson.He said he would never again allow the boundaries of a physician-patient relationship to be "blurred."

The board told Johnson to return in a month with a detailed plan as to how he would ease back into practice. Board members also said they want to talk with Johnson's therapist and with Layton pediatrician Bruce Jorgenson, whom Johnson said would welcome him into his practice.

"I do appreciate this even small approach toward a solution," John-son said at the end of a day-long meeting with the board.

In 1992, Johnson pleaded guilty to giving the deadly dose to Jones, a longtime friend whom he believed was suffering from ovarian cancer.

Johnson had signed Jones' death certificate, but a suspicious nurse and neighbors alerted Sunset police, who obtained a court order to exhume Jones' body six months after she died. A medical examination showed no signs of ovarian cancer.

Johnson served 90 days in the county jail, followed by home confinement, and was fined $12,500. Earlier this year he settled a lawsuit brought by Jones' two children, agreeing to pay Tina Jones Fronk and Christopher Jones $60,000 over several years.

Weeks after his 1992 conviction, Johnson entered a voluntary agree-ment with the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing to have his license revoked for a period not to exceed five years. Among the division's allegations against Johnson, all stemming from Jones' death, were that he failed to verify a patient's self-report of cancer; did not give aid in an emergency; failed to keep patient records; administered excess amounts of a controlled substance including a fatal dose; gave drugs to a drug-dependent person; and falsified a death certificate. Johnson had treated Jones' children but was not qualified to treat Jones, he admitted to board members.

Wednesday's meeting was Johnson's third annual probationary interview. Following each of the previous annual reviews, the board denied Johnson's request to get his license back.

David Robinson, director of the division and the man who ultimately will decide whether to issue Johnson a license, told Johnson not to take the board's willingness to discuss his request further as a sign he would soon be returning to practice.

"The board has not made up its mind," Robinson stressed.

Robinson noted that four of his grandchildren are patients of Jorgenson, meaning they potentially could be seen by Johnson if he began practicing with We Care Pediatrics, Jorgenson's clinic in Layton.

Jorgenson, contacted by telephone Wednesday afternoon, declined comment.

Board chairman George Van Komen told Johnson his panel faced a difficult decision in whether to recommend his reinstatement. Van Komen called Johnson's involvement in Jones' death "some of the most reckless, irresponsible behavior I have ever seen from a physician."

Denise Fickett, the nurse who was called in to assist Johnson and later alerted authorities, told the board she was "adamantly against" Johnson ever returning to practice.

"It's impossible to ever trust his judgment again," Fickett said.

Johnson said he's been unemployed for four months and hasn't worked for more than $8 an hour in three years.

"My pediatric practice is truly without a bad mark," he told the board. "None of my pediatric patients have suffered."