Below is a statement from Robert Frank, Dr Chao’s lawyer.
Dr. David Chao was Junior Seau’s physician and surgeon for almost 20 years including well after his time with the San Diego Chargers. Seau often publicly lauded Dr. Chao for his care and said he would not allow anyone else to treat him, including painfully flying to san diego immediately after breaking his arm while playing for the Patriots in 2008 to have Dr. Chao perform successful surgery.
Their relationship went far beyond doctor-patient as they were the best of friends as well. Seau officiated and was Dr. Chao’s best man at his 2011 wedding. Dr. Chao still serves as a board member on the Junior Seau Foundation. The thought that Dr. Chao would ever do anything to harm his friend is preposterous and deeply bothers my client.
Despite numerous requests, out of respect for his friend and Seau’s family, Dr. Chao has kept silent about the very private and emotional issues surrounding Seau’s death and the confirmation of CTE. However, this most recent insinuating attack by a politically motivated government agency at the fourth anniversary of Seau’s suicide is the straw that “broke the camel’s back” and thus my client’s silence.
Seau was well known for his insomnia over the years. Dr. Chao legally prescribed to Seau smaller than usual quantities of Ambien (a sleep aid) commonly provided by physicians to people with chronic insomnia. The quantity of each script was for no more than a one month supply, with no refills. There has never been a concern of overdosing on Ambien and Seau had only trace levels of the medication in his system at the time of his death, which is what would be expected after properly using the medication for a night’s sleep. The Coroner never considered nor linked Ambien to the cause of Seau’s death.
Although the charges do not assert that Dr. Chao is responsible for Seau’s death, they try and imply such as a result of the attention seeking accusations of a pathologist (who has never examined, treated or met Seau) years after the suicide. Immediately after Seau’s death, the medical board looked into the circumstances of the suicide and had no criticism of Dr. Chao. Now, without consulting the medical experts who have thoroughly reviewed the facts relating to Seau’s death an injustice has been dealt not only to Dr Chao but also to the Seau family with these recent insinuations. I have never seen such dogged pursuit of a highly skilled and competent physician in my 36 years of legal practice and have no worries of a successful defense of the spurious accusations about malpractice causing Seau’s death.
Dr Chao spent one on one, heart to heart, soul exploring time with his patient as a friend hours after the vehicular incident when Seau was in the hospital. Seau denied any suicide attempt and in fact had no signs of drug or alcohol in his system. Years earlier, after a mutual friend’s suicide, it was Seau himself who initiated an anti-suicide pact among Chao and other close friends. No doubt was left in my client’s mind after that sharing encounter at the hospital that the accident was just what Seau had said, a wee hours in the morning accident, not a suicide attempt. For Dr Chao to have believed Seau was suicidally depressed before his death is as preposterous as any insinuation that Chao is responsible for the suicide. Seau, the week before his death, was the happiest Chao had seen him. Seau’s daughter had just earned a volleyball scholarship at her father’s alma mater, USC. At the time, no physician could have known Seau was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) because there wasn’t anyway to diagnose it in the living. Posthumously, Seau was the first brain ever to be confirmed by multiple centers to have CTE. Chao and the Seau family hope this discovery will serve to help protect and prevent other athletes from suffering a similar fate.
The Medical Board professes to take all precautions in preserving patient confidentiality in their official proceedings but now purposely has exposed Seau as the patient at issue with its factual statements, yet trying to hide behind use of Seau’s unrecognized true name initials. It’s unfortunate this now has become a public issue but my client can no longer remain completely silent.
Dr Chao has successfully performed surgery and helped tens of thousands of residents of California including hundreds of professional athletes who stand by him to this day. He currently has an active orthopedic surgery practice and I am confident nothing will jeopardize that.