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Disciplining of physician raises profile of sexual abuse

By JACK WEATHERLY

The medical license of Dr. Bret A. Boes, a Meridian physician, has been suspended — but stayed for at least five years — because of numerous instances of unlawfully prescribing amphetamines for weight loss for a patient with whom he was having a sexual relationship.

Boes signed a consent agreement on March 16 with the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure, agreeing to a long list of conditions to keep his license.

The case could have had a much harsher penalty – even if House Bill 340 had not died in committee in the session of the Mississippi Legislature just ended.

The bill, as it stood, would have made the fact that Boes was having a sexual relationship with a patient punishable as a felony.

The legislative effort followed a series in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year in which Mississippi was ranked 51st, including the District of Columbia in protecting patients from sexually abusive physicians.

Dr. John Hall, executive director of the medical board, said in November that he was working with lawmakers to draft legislation.

However, some members of the board, for which Hall works, were reluctant to pursue such a law.

Meantime, Rep. Jeffrey Smith, R-Columbus, introduced HB 340.

Dr. Charles Miles, president of the medical board, acknowledged in an interview that the punishment of Boes, even under current law, seemed light.

But because of the complexity of the case – involving a number of governmental agencies – the medical board was constrained from deciding on a harsher ruling, Miles said.

As for HB 340, Miles said it had “many gray areas” and that lawmakers did not confer with him.

Miles had been dubious about a law, urged by Hall, along the lines of HB 340, even before Smith introduced it.

Had it become law, a physician would have automatically lost the license to practice medicine, as well as possible imprisonment.

Miles reiterated his earlier statement that he was absolutely against physicians having sex with patients.

“The law needs to be written in a much more clear . . . form. The one that was there has some glaring shortcomings,” Miles said.

“I’m sure [legislation] will come back in another form. And that’s fine.”

He said he knew of a young physician who was dating a woman with whom he had a nominal professional relationship. They subsequently married. If HB 340 had been passed as it stood, the physician could have faced a felony charge.

As for the Boes case, “the board spent hours and hours and hours discussing this and researching this. This was a very convoluted, complex case. If I’m not mistaken, I don’t believe Dr. Boes is through with the law enforcement.”

The other agencies, both state and federal, had taken steps that limited what the medical board could do, Miles said. Boes can continue to practice but he is under some very close observation.

“I expect more to happen,” Miles said.

Currently, the board can revoke a license, but the physician has the right to come back every year and ask for it to be restored.

The stay on the suspension of the license could be lifted for a number of reasons, according to the consent agreement.

Among them, Boes must:

• Comply with requirements imposed by the Mississippi Professionals Health Program.

• Complete courses on prescription of controlled substances and distressed physicians within 12 months.

• Not prescribe addictive drugs to family, staff or himself.

• Provide a monthly work itinerary.

• Submit to surveillance or unannounced inspections of his practice.

The report by an investigator by the board listed 31 counts. They involve issuing controlled substances without “legitimate justification or bona-fide physician-patient relationship,” failing to maintain complete patient records and “unprofessional conduct.”

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