By Brian Maass
DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– A veteran Colorado anesthesiologist has been charged with felony assault after witnesses say he nearly choked a nurse into unconsciousness in the recovery room at Sky Ridge Medical Center.
Dr. Mark Randle Ryan, 56, told CBS4 he has retired as a physician following the Oct. 8 incident.
”I think it will be easy to show there was no intent involved,” he told CBS4.
According to a police report and witnesses, Ryan, who worked for an outside anesthesiology group and was not a hospital employee, was making rounds in the recovery room and was turning off vital sign machines in patient bays due to their constant beeping.
Ryan told CBS4 he was turning off the machines due to “alarm fatigue” which he said was “significantly dangerous.”
He said nurses are subject to hundreds of false alarms every shift and “after a while, they just don’t hear them.”
Nurse Beth Duche noticed what the doctor was doing and had told him “to not turn off the machines.”
She told police after the monitors are turned off, it can take three to five minutes to turn them back on. She told investigators that Ryan continued to turn off the monitors and she again asked him to stop.
She said, “Dr. Ryan grabbed her by the throat and squeezed Duche’s neck with enough force to where she lost her function to breathe normally… she was seeing stars.”
The nurse went on to tell Lone Tree police investigators, “She was in shock and thought Ryan was going to kill her.”
Another nurse who witnessed the event told investigators she saw, “Ryan with his hands around Duche’s neck and throat and squeezing very violently.”
She stated that Duche’s body was shaking and that her feet were “dancing.”
Linda Watson, a Sky Ridge Medical Center spokesperson, said Ryan was escorted off the property after the incident and his privileges to practice at the hospital were immediately suspended.
She said, “We had no prior information about incidences with this physician at Sky Ridge prior to this happening.”
According to police, Dr. Ryan has no previous criminal record. State records show no previous discipline against his medical license.
Lone Tree police say Ryan told them,”I just didn’t mean to hurt her.”
Asked why he retired, Ryan told CBS4, “I was ready. I am ready.”
He reiterated multiple times that the strangling of Nurse Duche involved “no intent.”
Ryan is due to appear in Douglas County court next Friday.