Denver Psychiatrist’s License Revoked For Practicing and Prescribing With Expired License

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

A Denver psychiatrist who continued to practice after his license expired in 2015 and then failed to respond to an official complaint against him violated the Colorado Medical Practice Act and has been disciplined with the loss of his license.

The Colorado Medical Board received a complaint that Gordon L. Neligh III violated state law by practicing psychiatry and prescribing Ritalin, a controlled substance, without a valid license, according to documents recently posted online by the Department of Regulatory Agencies.

The Board turned the matter over to an administrative law judge who, under Colorado law, can take evidence and make findings for the Board.

Neligh was notified of the legal proceedings, but failed to respond to the complaint and failed to appear at the proceedings.  By default, he is deemed to have admitted the allegations.

The administrative law judge found that Neligh engaged in unprofessional conduct by practicing with an expired license and by failing to respond in an honest, materially responsive, and timely manner to the complaint against him.

The judge recommended that Neligh’s license be revoked.  The Medical Board adopted the decision, effective June 15.

Online records indicate Neligh was in private practice with offices in Denver and Westminster.

If you or someone you know has experienced unprofessional conduct from a psychiatrist or other mental health worker, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

Erie Psychiatrist Disciplined For Improper Prescribing And Romantic Relationship With Patient

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

An Erie psychiatrist specializing in addiction psychiatry has been put on indefinite probation by the Colorado Medical Board after admitting he wrongly prescribed controlled substances to a female patient, failed to maintain proper records of his prescribing and treatment of her, and engaged in a romantic relationship with her.

Halbert B. Miller was publicly disciplined by the Medical Board with indefinite probation effective March 16, a letter of admonition, and orders to complete a professional boundaries course and a prescribing course in response to his actions, which are unprofessional conduct under Colorado law.

Boundary violations occur when doctors use their position of trust and authority for their own pleasure or benefit (or the benefit of others).  Psychiatrists account for the largest percentage of doctors with boundary violations.  One in three physicians who were disciplined for inappropriate personal contact with patients were psychiatrists.

Miller, who is also licensed in North Dakota, had been disciplined by that state’s medical board for the same misconduct, which it termed “unprofessional, unethical and/or dishonorable conduct that is likely to deceive, defraud or harm the public.”

Miller was previously disciplined by the Colorado and Massachusetts Medical Boards.

After failing to renew his Massachusetts license in 2013, Miller continued to practice psychiatry without a license.  He also fraudulently claimed in his license renewal application that he was Board-certified in addiction psychiatry, but the certification had expired in 2008.  In 2014, the Massachusetts Medical Board publicly reprimanded Miller and fined him $2,500 for this misconduct.

Following the actions taken by the Massachusetts Board, the Colorado Medical Board sent a letter of admonition to Miller in 2015, stating that his actions were also unprofessional conduct under Colorado law and warning him that any similar conduct in the future could lead to formal disciplinary action against his Colorado license.

Miller currently lists addiction psychiatry as his specialty in his online profile.

The Colorado Medical Board monthly disciplinary action summary lists Miller’s address as Erie, while the Department of Regulatory Agencies license lookup lists it as Lafayette.  Online search results indicate he practiced in Boulder.

If you or someone you know is the victim of inappropriate behavior by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker, 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.

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.

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?