Denver Psychiatrist Disciplined For Misconduct with Sexually Obsessed Patient

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

A Denver psychiatrist has been disciplined by the state licensing board for unprofessional conduct with a patient who became sexually fixated on him during treatment.

Steve Sarche failed to terminate his doctor-patient relationship with a patient who developed erotomania during treatment that lasted from approximately November 2008 through July 2012, according to a Colorado Medical Board public document posted online.

Erotomania is defined as excessive sexual desire, or the delusional belief that one is the object of another person’s love or sexual desire.

The Medical Board also found that Sarche crossed professional boundaries by seeing the patient outside of his office, and by continuing to communicate with the patient after the professional relationship was finally terminated.

The Board found that the behavior was unprofessional conduct under state law and issued an order, effective February 27, under which Sarche agreed to a disciplinary letter from the Board, indefinite probation, and completing an ethics program and professional boundaries course.

Psychiatrists account for the largest percentage of doctors with boundary violations, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.  Boundary violations occur when doctors use their position of trust and authority for their own pleasure or benefit (or the benefit of others).

Similarly, a 2001 study  published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that one in three physicians (34%) who were disciplined at least partly because of their inappropriate personal contact with patients were psychiatrists.

If a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker has acted improperly with you or someone you know, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.

Psychiatrist’s License Among Four Remaining Suspended For Authorizing Excessive Marijuana Plant Possession

A Denver District Court judge decided against reinstating the medical licenses of a psychiatrist and three other physicians who allegedly authorized the possession of an excessively high number of marijuana plants for hundreds of individuals without medical necessity.

In his August 12 decision, the judge said he did not have the jurisdiction to make a ruling because the case had not yet been reviewed in an administrative proceeding.

The Colorado Medical Board had summarily suspended the licenses of the four doctors, effective July 19.

One of the four, Deborah Kaye Parr of Durango, practiced as a psychiatrist providing addiction treatment.

The Board’s order of suspension for Parr stated that from January 1 to May 25, 2016, she signed more than 300 medical marijuana certifications authorizing individuals who did not have a diagnosis of cancer to possess 75 or more marijuana plants.

The standard number of plants a medical marijuana patient can grow is six, with a medical justification needed for more plants.

All four of the doctors with suspended licenses sued the state, claiming that there is no law or Medical Board rule prohibiting doctors from authorizing large plant counts.

The Medical Board maintained that it has the authority to determine whether a doctor’s treatment of patients is standard medical practice.

The Board found that authorizing more than 75 marijuana plants without a diagnosis of cancer falls “below generally accepted standard of medical practice and lacks medical necessity” and is, therefore, a violation of the Medical Practice Act in Colorado law.

Parr previously disciplined in Texas for controlled substances prescribing

Parr was previously disciplined by the Texas Medical Board, where she was licensed from 1998 to 2012, for her prescribing of controlled substances to two patients with a history of substance abuse.

According to the Texas Board, Parr prescribed increasing doses of a controlled substance without a documented rationale for one patient, and substituted opiates instead of trying to wean the other patient off Vicodin.

The Board found that Parr harmed the patients, that “the harm was severe and contributed to [their] addiction,” and that her actions constituted “increased potential of harm to the public.”  Parr’s failure to appear at a settlement conference was cited as an additional aggravating factor in determining the disciplinary action taken.

On June 4, 2010, the Texas Medical Board and Parr entered into an agreed order that publicly reprimanded her, fined her $10,000, and required her to complete educational courses.

The Colorado Medical Board followed the Texas Board’s action by sending Parr a letter of admonition in November 2010, warning her that “any repetition of such practice may lead to the commencement of formal disciplinary proceedings against your license to practice medicine” in Colorado.

Sara Carver, director of clinical operations for Southern Rockies Addiction Treatment Services, expressed concern about Parr’s history of prescribing opiate-based drugs to patients with a history of substance abuse, according to the Durango Herald.

“We…fear that her questionable prescribing practices spill over into her prescribing practices in addiction treatment as well,” Carver said.

FT COLLINS PSYCHIATRIST’S LICENSE SUSPENDED AFTER EVIDENCE HE USED STUDENTS TO OBTAIN DRUGS

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

The Colorado Medical Board has suspended a Fort Collins psychiatrist’s license over allegations he used medical students to divert prescription drugs for his own use.

Timothy Jay Allen, a psychiatrist formerly practicing at Fort Collins Neurology, was suspended on March 15, pending further action by the Board.

The Board took the emergency action over concern that Allen “used his medical license, along with his position of trust and supervision over medical students, to engage in prescription drug diversion” by asking students to fill prescriptions in their names and then give the drugs to him for his use.

Based on the information the Board reviewed, and following Allen’s appearance at a pre-suspension hearing, the Board concluded it had “objective and reasonable grounds to believe and finds that [Allen] deliberately and willfully violated the Medical Practice Act and/or that the public health, safety, or welfare imperatively requires emergency action.”

A summary of the inquiry leading to the suspension is found in the Board’s Order of Suspension, posted and open to public view on the state Department of Regulatory Agencies website.

If you or someone you know has information about wrongful behavior by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker, we want to talk to you.  You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.  We welcome your comments on this article.

Colorado Medical Board Takes Emergency Action to Suspend The License of Lakewood Psychiatrist Harry Taub

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

The Colorado Medical Board took emergency action in January to suspend the license of Lakewood psychiatrist Harry Taub after reviewing information that he deliberately and willfully violated the Medical Practice Act and/or that he has a physical or mental condition that makes him unsafe to practice with reasonable skill and safety to patients.

Documents related to the case, which date back to 2003, are posted on the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies website.  The documents detail a history of substance abuse that started with Taub’s addiction to cough syrup, which began sometime after he was issued a resident’s Training License to practice medicine in North Carolina in 2001.

In 2003, Taub was arrested in North Carolina on a felony charge of obtaining a controlled substance by forgery.  Taub admitted he had written prescriptions for Percocet for himself under a fictitious name for about a year.  He entered into a deferral agreement, under which the charge against him would be dismissed if he followed his treatment plan and submitted to drug testing while on supervised probation for one year.

In 2008, Taub was arrested again and charged with two counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud/forgery.  He pled guilty to the charges, was given a suspended sentence of four to five months and was placed on supervised probation.  He entered a substance abuse treatment program.  The North Carolina Medical Board indefinitely suspended his license to practice, and records show the license subsequently became inactive in 2009.

In 2011, Taub applied for a license to practice in Colorado.  An evaluation by the Colorado Physician Health Program concluded Taub was safe to practice if he was under treatment and monitoring.

In May 2012, the Colorado Medical Board granted a restricted license that required Taub to comply with numerous conditions for a period of five years, including treatment monitoring and abstinence from addictive substances, monitoring of the prescriptions he wrote, and monitoring of his psychiatric practice.

Taub treated children and adolescents.  In June 2013, a monitor’s review of Taub’s practice found his treatment and medication management of three child and adolescent psychiatric patients fell below generally accepted standards and that he failed to make essential entries in the records of seven patients.  This is unprofessional conduct, as defined in Colorado law.

The Medical Board found that the situation required emergency action.  Instead of an immediate suspension of Taub’s license, it allowed Taub to enter into an agreement not to practice, pending further evaluation and investigation by the Board.

In July 2013, the Medical Board placed Taub’s license on probation for five years and required him to meet a lengthy list of conditions, including treatment and drug monitoring, keeping a log of prescriptions he wrote, practice monitoring, an education program, and quality reviews.

On January 8, 2016, the Colorado Medical Board received information that Taub had used alcohol and a controlled substance and that he has a physical or mental condition that renders him unsafe to practice.  The Medical Board concluded the situation required emergency action and suspended Taub’s license to practice, pending further resolution of the matter.

You decide.  Has the Medical Board handled this psychiatrist’s case appropriately?

Elise Sannar: Did The Colorado Medical Board Discipline This Psychiatrist Appropriately?

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

The state medical boards of Colorado and California handled the professional misconduct of an Aurora psychiatrist very differently.

Psychiatrist Elise Sannar signed stipulations with the Colorado State Board of Medical Examiners in 2007 and 2009, in which she admitted professional misconduct.  Because she was licensed in both Colorado and California, her conduct was the subject of reviews by the medical boards of both states.

According to the Colorado State Board of Medical Examiners’ Second Stipulation and Final Agency Order dated July 16, 2009 and available on the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies website, psychiatrist Sannar admitted to the following facts:

  • From July 2005 to July 2006, she took a leave of absence from a residency program in psychiatry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center so she could work as a forensic psychiatrist at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (CMHIP).
  • In August 2005, patient J.M., an inmate, was transferred to CMHIP with a legal status of Incompetent to Proceed in court with criminal charges against him.  Sannar was his treating psychiatrist from roughly the time he arrived at CMHIP through November 2005.
  • While in treatment with psychiatrist Sannar, J.M. informed her that he had developed romantic feelings for her.  Sannar did not transfer J.M. to another psychiatrist for treatment, as was required by generally accepted standards of practice.
  • J.M. left CMHIP in November 2005 with a legal status of Competent to Proceed, after which he was tried on criminal charges and ultimately sentenced to four years in prison.
  • Within six months of the end of treating him at CMHIP, Sannar began a romantic relationship with J.M., which continued until approximately February 2007.  The details were not specified in the public documents.
  • Sannar admits through the documents she signed that she “was aware at all relevant times of the ethical and medical impropriety of beginning and maintaining such a relationship with a patient.”

With a finding of unprofessional conduct, the Colorado State Board of Medical Examiners has a range of disciplinary actions it can take, including suspending, revoking, placing on probation or otherwise restricting, limiting or placing conditions on a license.

What did the Colorado Medical Examiners Board do?  It gave her five years probation, dating from November 16, 2007, with certain treatment and monitoring required for Sannar and certain restrictions on her treatment of patients, as detailed in the Second Stipulation and Final Agency Order.  Her license remained active.

What did the Medical Board of California do with the same set of facts and admissions from Sannar?  It got a signed Stipulation for Surrender of License from her.  (The document can be accessed on the Medical Board of California website by entering license #96357.)  Sannar can no longer practice as a psychiatrist in the state of California.

Last month, the Colorado State Board of Medical Examiners took yet another action, this time to terminate Sannar’s Second Stipulation after just 3½ years of probation, apparently on Sannar’s petition for early termination.  Her license is now active without any conditions in the state of Colorado.

According to her online Physician Profile, Sannar is currently employed as a psychiatrist by the Children’s Hospital in Aurora, and has faculty affiliations at both Children’s Hospital and the University of Colorado Hospital.

What do you think?  Did the Colorado State Board of Medical Examiners act appropriately under the circumstances?

Ann Barbara Seig: Did The Colorado Medical Board Discipline This Psychiatrist Appropriately?

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

Englewood, Colorado psychiatrist Ann Barbara Seig is the subject of disciplinary action by the Colorado Medical Board for unprofessional conduct. According to a Second Stipulation and Final Agency Order dated March 10, 2011 and publicly posted on the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) website, psychiatrist Seig (referred to in the document as “Respondent”) did the following:

“Respondent treated patient C.H. from approximately November 2006 through April 2009. C.H. presented with panic attacks, alcohol use and a history of delirium tremens. Respondent began treatment of a previously untreated hairline fracture of C.H.’s heel with Percocet, without data to support the diagnosis. Respondent doubled C.H.’s dose of Percocet within one week. Respondent doubled patient C.H.’s dose of Percocet in the following six months, adding Vicodin to 120 mg. daily doses, and refilled prescriptions by telephone, without office visits. In August 2007, Respondent made a note in patient C.H.’s medical record that the patient was emaciated, but made no plan to evaluate. In December 2007, patient C.H. continued to prescribe narcotics, but did not make any referral to or consultation with an orthopedist or podiatrist. After Respondent surrendered her DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration] registration, Respondent changed her diagnosis of patient C.H. from panic disorder to bipolar disorder, despite continued alcohol use and symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal. Respondent proceeded to treat patient C.H. with a combination of two antipsychotic medications, mood stabilizers, antidepressants and anticonvulsants.”

More unprofessional conduct with other patients is also detailed in the Second Stipulation and Final Agency Order. You can read the whole document here. (If the DORA login page appears, select Division of Registrations Board/Program Action Documents, click Login, and the document will appear.)

The disciplinary actions available to the Medical Board include suspending, revoking, placing on probation or otherwise restricting, limiting or placing conditions on a medical license. They also include a letter of admonition or other letter of reprimand.

So what did the Medical Board’s Panel of Inquiry decide to do with this psychiatrist? Answer: her license remains active with conditions, including five years of probation, an education program and practice monitoring, as detailed here. (If the DORA login page appears, select Division of Registrations Board/Program Action Documents, click Login, and the document will appear.)

What do you think? Did the Medical Board act appropriately under the circumstances?