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Doc taken off United jet recovering in Chicago; has troubled past

Dr. David Dao is dragged off a United Airlines flight April 9, 2017. | Twitter

Dr. David Dao — the 69-year-old grandfather forcibly removed off a Louisville-bound flight leaving O’Hare Airport on Sunday — said he remained in a Chicago area hospital on Tuesday and was still feeling the effects of his run-in with city aviation police.

Dao told WLKY-TV in Kentucky that he’s not doing well. Asked by the television station what his injuries were, he said: “Everything.”

The Elizabethtown, Kentucky, physician became a focus of attention not only because videos of the incident had been broadcast around the world, but also because he was convicted more than a decade ago of felony charges involving his prescribing of drugs and spent years trying to regain his medical license. In between, Dao made money playing poker, logging $234,664 in winnings, TMZ reported.

Despite this, there’s no indication that his past influenced how he was treated by United employees or the aviation security officers — or that the airline or police were aware of his background. And it’s unlikely that officials would have known anything about him other than basic information such as his name and address, if that.

Screaming can be heard on the videos, but nowhere is Dao seen attacking the officers. In fact, he appears relatively passive both when he was dragged down the aisle of the jet and when he is seen standing in the aisle later, saying quietly, “I want to go home, I want to go home.”

When cellphone videos taken by other passengers first emerged, they generated widespread sympathy for Dao and sharp criticism of the airline.

In his latest statement, United CEO Oscar Munoz described the removal as “truly horrific.” He planned to review policies for seeking volunteers to give up their seats, for handling oversold situations and for partnering with airport authorities and local law enforcement.

Dao’s family is focused only on his medical care and “wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern and support they have received,” said Chicago attorney Stephen L. Golan of Golan Christie Taglia, who along with Chicago aviation attorney Thomas A. Demetrio of Corboy & Demetrio, is representing the Dao family.

Dao has a daughter who lives in Barrington. Four of his five children are doctors.


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According to records from the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, Dao went to medical school at the University of Medicine of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, graduating in 1974. He was licensed in Kentucky with a specialty in pulmonary disease.

His legal troubles started in 2003, when his medical license was suspended after an undercover sting operation at a Louisville motel for allegedly writing fraudulent prescriptions.

According to the documents, the licensing board had learned that Dao had become sexually interested in a patient and hired the patient as his office manager. That man later said he quit his job because Dao “pursued him aggressively” and arranged to provide him with prescription drugs in exchange for sex.

Dao was ultimately convicted in late 2004 of several counts of obtaining drugs by fraud or deceit and was placed on five years of supervised probation and surrendered his medical license.

His longtime effort to get his license back finally succeeded in 2015, when the licensing board allowed him to practice medicine again.

Associated Press Writer David Koenig in Dallas and AP researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.