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She Said, He Said, Right Here at Home

Tuesday, November 24, 2009, 15:45 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I read this article on my lunch break.

A jury is tasked with deciding this week whether a longtime gynecologist is guilty of masturbating in front of his patient last year.

[ . . . ]

The woman testified yesterday that when she went to Dr. [Patrick P.] Hogan’s practice at the UMass Memorial Medical Group on Lincoln Street for ongoing abdominal pain and irregular menstrual cycles, the doctor focused exclusively on questions about her sex life. She said he fondled himself outside and inside his scrubs as she sat across from him at his desk.

Defense lawyer Paul R. Cirel painted a different picture in his opening remarks and cross-examination of his client’s accuser, which will continue today. He alleged the woman made up the story and stormed out of Dr. Hogan’s office after the doctor didn’t prescribe her Vicodin.

The defendant in the case was on the medical staff of the hospital where I worked as a teenager. He was also my OB-GYN in the 1980s. The only reason he didn’t deliver my child is that his partner was on call the night I went into labor. In my experiences with Dr. Hogan, he was always proper and professional.

At the same time, I am well aware that every sex offender once did it for the first time, and once got caught for the first time. Sex crimes in which the only witnesses were the perpetrator and the victim are notoriously hard to prove in the absence of physical evidence. My first reaction is always to believe the accuser enough to investigate the accusation fully. At the same time, a mere accusation shouldn’t be enough to make a criminal of someone who hasn’t done anything wrong.

My work as a disability claims analyst specializing in behavioral health and addiction disabilities offers some insight into both parties in the case.

Fact: some doctors molest patients. I had one on claim several years ago. After he was accused by multiple patients of fondling them during examinations and procedures, he claimed a sexual disorder caused his behavior. The assorted medical and legal records in the file were so disturbing that during my reviews of the claim documents, I had to take frequent breaks for a walk around the building just to clear my head of the mental images that had formed. The state medical board demanded that the claimant have a full inpatient evaluation at a facility specializing in mental health disorders in medical professionals. The conclusion of the month-long evaluation was that he had no recognized sexual disorder. I ended up denying his claim, and as far as I know, he has never appealed or brought suit. I don’t know what happened to him and couldn’t remember his name even if I wanted to find out, which I don’t. But whatever happened to the lech was less than he deserved. I have no sympathy for sexual predators.

Fact: some patients are addicted to narcotics and resort to manipulation of health care providers to get their fix. I have also had some of these people on claim. They are frequent visitors to multiple doctors, their sole intention being to get the prescription drugs to feed their habit. I recall a particular claimant who didn’t have to “doctor shop”; she was a pharmacist and merely helped herself to a small amount of whatever she was dispensing, hoping the patient wouldn’t notice. Another was a nurse who recorded drugs on patient charts that she never gave them. I recall two anesthesiologists who were addicted to anesthesia meds. Many an addict whose disease is active find ways to rationalize their substance abuse. Sometimes, they actually do feel the “pain” their drugs of choice are used to alleviate. It’s part of the physiological aspect of addiction.

What is the truth in this case? I don’t know. Knowing Dr. Hogan, I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps if I knew his accuser, I would feel differently. All I know with certainty is that it’s disconcerting to look at the newspaper and see a story like this about a person you know.

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