Monthly Archives: December 2012

Iowa psychiatrist James Pullen surrenders license on sex charge

On April 25, 2012, psychiatrist James J. Pullen surrendered his license to the Iowa Board of Medicine. The Board had charged Pullen with sexual misconduct for engaging in a sexual relationship with female former patient between 2007 and 2010. The patient was then in her late 20s, while Pullen was in his 60s. He was also reprimanded and agreed to pay a $10,000 fine.

Man sues psychotherapist for drug relapse following sexual exploitation

CHICAGO (CN) – A drug abuser claims in court that he suffered a relapse after his female counselor invited him to her house and had sex with him on the day he was discharged.

Michael Fleming and his wife sued Stacy Lott and Gateway Foundation in Cook County Court.

Fleming claims he was treated for three weeks this year at the Gateway Foundation for drug and cocaine dependence.

His counselor, Lott, “was a ‘psychotherapist’ pursuant to the Sexual Exploitation in Psychotherapy Act,” a state law, according to the complaint. He claims that “the defendant, Stacy Lott, was providing ‘psychotherapy’ to the plaintiff”.

Fleming says he “asked the defendant, Stacy Lott, if he could get another psychotherapist/counselor due to the fact that she was attractive, and it was a distraction for him.”

“During the aforesaid conversation, the defendant Stacy Lott, stated that she found him attractive as well, but that she wished to remain his counselor, because she thought she could help the plaintiff, Michael Fleming.”

Lott remained Fleming’s counselor and told him that his wife, Lisa Aprati, was “‘too controlling’ and bad for his recovery,” Fleming says in the complaint.

He claims that Lott also “would escort the plaintiff, Michael Fleming, outside for a cigarette break and while returning would ask him for a hug and a kiss, which then occurred.”

“Stacy Lott asked the plaintiff, Michael Fleming, to stay at her apartment the night of February 8, 2012, which was his discharge date from the Gateway Foundation’s inpatient treatment program,” the complaint states.

“Plaintiff, Michael Fleming, did stay at defendant Stacy Lott’s apartment on the night of February 8, 2012, and they had sexual relations.”

Since then, Fleming says, he “has been required to undergo counseling, and he has suffered a relapse in his attempts to deal with his cocaine and alcohol dependency, and he has expended sums of money for counseling, has lost time from his employment, and he has lost other gains he otherwise would have realized.”

He claims the Gateway Foundation knew Lott had inappropriate relationships with patients and did nothing to protect its patients.

He seeks damages for sexual exploitation, negligent supervision, and psychotherapist malpractice.

He is represented by Edmund Scanlan.

(Psychotherapists are M.D.s and/or Ph.Ds. Lott is not referred to as a doctor in the complaint.)

Source: Jack Bouboushian, “Sex Shouldn’t Be in the Program, Patient Says,” Courthouse News Service, December 11, 2012.

New Zealand psychiatrist under investigation for sex with patient; paid her $42,000 to deny relationship

A psychiatrist is to be investigated further after a patient complained that he had an inappropriate relationship with her.

Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill has concluded that the psychiatrist breached the Code of Health and Disability Services and the patient’s rights.

The commissioner’s report says the 24-year-old woman had a history of mental illness, including a fear of separation and discomfort with intimate relationships.

It says that five meetings after the first consultation in April 2008, the pair began sexual relations which continued until February 2009.

The psychiatrist paid the woman $42,000 at the end of the relationship and asked her to deny it happened if asked by the commissioner.

Mr. Hill found that the psychiatrist failed to provide the correct treatment for the woman, engaged in an inappropriate relationship and then tried to get her to provide false information.

He has referred the psychiatrist to the Director of Proceedings, an independent lawyer appointed under the Health and Disability Commissioner Act.

The commissioner says the psychiatrist’s behaviour is unacceptable.

“There are a series of very severe difficulties with the behaviour of this individual and it’s for that reason that I have referred him to the director of proceedings.

“It is likely that disciplinary proceedings will be taken and that’s a matter for the director to consider.”

Mr Hill says the psychiatrist is now working in another country.

Listen to Checkpoint interview with Anthony Hill

Source: “Psychiatrist paid woman to keep quiet about affair,” Radio New Zealand News, December 13, 2012.

Connecticut psychiatric resident Abnishek Shah, arrested and charged with sexual assault of woman he met on dating site

West Hartford resident Abhishek Shah, a second-year psychiatry resident at the UConn Health Center, was released from jail Thursday after posting $75,000 bail and surrendering his passport. According to the Hartford Courant, Shah’s parents traveled from New York to post the bail.

According to the Courant, police were dispatched to the apartment building at 1248 Farmingon Ave. where the assault allegedly occurred, and interviewed the the victim in the parking lot. The victim, who was reportedly distraught, claimed that Shah violated her with his hands and restrained her while he performed a sex act on himself.

According to the Courant, Shah denied violating the woman.

According to police, Shah met the woman through the online dating site PlentyofFish.com. Their first date was on Wednesday night, police said.

ORIGINAL STORY

West Hartford police have charged a local doctor with sexual assault and unlawful restraint in a Wednesday night incident involving a victim he allegedly met online through the dating site PlentyofFish.com.

According to police, Abhishek Shah, 31, of 1248 Farmington Ave., Apt. B3, West Hartford, was on a “first time” date with the victim Wednesday night. Police said that they were dispatched to Shah’s apartment on a complaint of a physical assault that occurred during that date.

According to police, further investigation revealed that the victim was sexually and physically assaulted.

A spokesperson from the UConn Health Center confirmed that Shah is a second-year general psychiatry resident. He was doing rotations at all area hospitals including St. Francis, Hartford Hartford Hospital, Institute of Living, and Connecticut Valley Hospital.

Shah has been suspended and placed on administrative leave, the UConn spokesperson said Thursday morning.

Shah has been charged with first-degree sexual assault, third-degree assault, unlawful restraint, and disorderly conduct.

He is being held on $150,000 surety bond and is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 20.

Source: Ronni Newton, “West Hartford Psychiatrist Charged with Sexual Assault of Online Dating Contact,” West Hartford Patch,  December 6, 2012.

Study concludes that psychiatrists almost four times as likely to be sanctioned for sexual misconduct

The new analysis of a decade of discipline cases across Canada more than confirmed anecdotal evidence and a previous study that suggested a problem with psychiatry, said Dr. Chaim Bell of Toronto’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, who co-authored the paper.

Psychiatrists are twice as likely as other Canadian doctors to face professional discipline generally and almost four times as apt to be sanctioned for sexual misconduct, concludes a new study that underscores long-held concerns about the speciality.

Experts blame the problem in part on psychiatrists’ unusually close and long relationships with their patients, compared to surgeons and some other specialists who often have relatively brief contact with the people they treat.

Past research has suggested many of the wayward therapists may also be “lovesick,” middle-aged men in isolated practices who fall for younger women, the study notes.

Regardless, the new analysis of a decade of discipline cases across Canada more than confirmed anecdotal evidence and a previous study that suggested a problem with psychiatry, said Dr. Chaim Bell of Toronto’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, who co-authored the paper.

“This is surprising in how consistent it is across the various provinces, how consistent it is in different years, and how consistent it is with penalties and fines,” he said. “It’s also consistent with the sort of sensational, one-type anecdotal coverage you might get…. The [discipline case] that gets the front page is often the psychiatrist.”

Just this month, in fact, at least two psychiatrists have been in the news for sexual-abuse allegations. A London doctor under investigation by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons for allegedly masturbating and inappropriately videotaping female patients was charged by police with sexual assault and voyeurism. In Calgary, meanwhile, a psychiatrist is being tried on charges of sexually assaulting 10 male patients.

Dr. Bell, an internal-medicine specialist, stressed that it is still a small percentage of psychiatrists — about two per thousand — who get in trouble with their regulatory colleges. Given the “catastrophic” effect even rare cases of misconduct can have on patients and the public trust, however, psychiatry must do more to curb wrongdoing, the study’s authors say.

At the same time, the average psychiatrist who faced discipline over the 10-year study period had been practising for more than 30 years, perhaps reflecting a shrinking generation of practitioner, said Dr. Molyn Leszcz, Mt. Sinai’s chief of psychiatry.

Younger psychiatrists have been exposed to training on appropriate boundaries with patients, are more conscientious about their own emotional health and actually do their jobs differently, said Dr. Leszcz, who was not involved in the study. They are more likely to practise with groups of other doctors and spend less time in one-on-one psychotherapy sessions, he said.

“If you sit in your office and experience the kinds of strong feelings that get generated in psychotherapy all the time, in isolation, then it becomes harder to maintain professional perspective,” said Dr. Leszcz.

Still, the results from Dr. Bell’s study are “disappointing” in light of the measures taken to combat sexual abuse, said Dr. Donald Addington, chair of the Canadian Psychiatric Association.

“This kind of report makes us think about ‘What more could be done?’ and at this point, we don’t have a particular new plan or direction,” said the University of Calgary professor.

Dr. Bell said the regulatory colleges in each province do little tracking themselves of trends in discipline, so he and his colleagues developed a database of physicians punished for wrongdoing from 2000 to 2009, a total of just over 600 cases.

Psychiatrists made up 14% of that number, twice their percentage in the medical profession, concluded the study, just published in the journal Plos One. They were 3.62 times more likely than other physicians to be found guilty of sexual abuse of patients, had 2.32 times more chance of being convicted of fraud-related discipline offences, and were three times as apt to be found guilty of unprofessional conduct, the paper said.

Little research has been done on psychiatrists who “violate boundaries” with patients, but one 1989 study suggested a small number are actually psychotic, a somewhat larger group show antisocial or exploitative behaviour, and the largest category are the “lovesick” — typically neurotic, socially isolated middle-aged men who fall for much younger patients.

A 1997 Canadian study that followed a group of new psychiatrists over time concluded that the two who were eventually convicted of sexual abusing patients had identifiable personality problems even while still in training.

That raises the “ethically challenging” prospect of screening medical students for sexually exploitative tendencies before they are assigned to specialty training, the new study noted.

It is simply unclear, meanwhile, why a disproportionate number of psychiatrists are found guilty of fraud-related discipline charges, he said.

Source: Tom Blackwell, “Psychiatrists four times as likely as other Canadian doctors to be disciplined for sexual misconduct: study,” National Post, December 6, 2012.