We were retained to represent a doctor who was falsely accused of inappropriately touching a patient. He was at risk of being arrested as well as losing his medical license.
The case was being investigated by the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office and the investigators were aggressively seeking to interview our client. We immediately began investigating the patient and learned that there were a number of factors that were contributing to her making this allegation.
The 19-year-old patient came for her annual physical exam and was accompanied by her mother. During the exam, she reported that she had been suffering from breast pain. As a result, our client conducted a breast examination. Both the patient and her mother were concerned about breast cancer in light of the fact that she was recently diagnosed with ovarian cysts. After conducting the exam, our client gave them reassurance that it was not breast cancer, however, he recommended that the patient follow up in two weeks to see if the pain had improved.
The medical records revealed that each time the patient visited the doctor, she complained of anxiety. When the patient returned for her follow-up appointment, she was not accompanied by her mother and stated once again that she was experiencing anxiety. Prior to the exam, the patient indicated that while the pain had reduced, she was still having pain in her right breast. Our client asked if her bra was too tight as that is a common cause of breast pain. The patient then removed her shirt and our client noted her bra to be tight based on where it was clipped in the back. He unhooked the bra to gauge how tight it was and then recommended that she wear a larger bra as another way of preventing breast pain.
Our client then asked her to remove the bra and he proceeded to conduct a visual and physical exam. He conducted the breast exam in the same way that it was conducted previously. However, following the exam, the patient immediately claimed to the medical staff that our client touched her inappropriately. Our client was then placed on administrative leave while WellStar and the police conducted their investigations.
During our investigation, we learned that the patient was previously diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. She had frequent bouts with both anxiety and depression over the last five years and had been prescribed a number of strong psychotropic medications. Her doctors described her anxiety as “a recurrent problem” with episodes lasting over a month. It was noted that she was experiencing heart palpitations and chest tightening during these episodes. It was also noted that she would exhibit dysphoric mood – which can consist of feelings of sadness, numbness, and sometimes irritability and mood swings.
We pointed out that it was noted in the patient’s chart that she complained of having anxiety at each of her appointments with our client. This anxiety could certainly have given the patient a heightened sensitivity that would contribute to her feeling uncomfortable during the follow-up exam – especially since her mother was not there to accompany her. In fact, it was clear from the first visit when her mother had to prompt her to even mention the breast pain to our client, that she was uncomfortable just discussing any of this with the doctor.
We also learned that the patient had recently been prescribed the anti-depressant Citalopram (aka Celexa). Citalopram has a number of known side effects, one of which is breast pain/tenderness. However, the patient did not disclose that she was taking this drug at the time of her visits so this was not known by our client. The side effects of Citalopram also include agitation, confusion, suicidal thoughts, trembling or shaking, loss of memory, menstrual changes, as well as many others.
With regards to teenagers like this patient, the warning associated with Citalopram states that “antidepressants increased the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults in short-term studies with major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders.” Much of the medical literature on anti-depressants such as Citalopram discusses the fact that the side effects are most prevalent in the first couple months after the patient begins taking the drug.
Our investigation also revealed that the patient’s mother has a long track record of civil judgments being issued against her, several of which involved outstanding medical bills to doctors and hospitals. Perhaps, as a result of these judgments against her, she has a bias against doctors that could have had an influence on her daughter. In addition to these judgments, there was a tax lien issued against her by the State of New Jersey, a judgment against her from a bonding company, and an old arrest for writing a bad check. We argued to the investigators that aside from issues with credibility that this may raise, it may also help explain a possible bias or even a financial motive to make this allegation against our client.
We were able to present all of our evidence to the investigators and demonstrated how these various factors likely contributed to the allegation being made. We were also able to show that our client passed a polygraph exam which further established his innocence.
In a little over a month, we were able to convince the police to dismiss the charges against our client. He was never arrested and was able to get reinstated by WellStar without any repercussions to his employment or medical license.
Categories | Sexual Assault Cases,