Tuesday, May 1, 2012
A story from the main page of the May 2012 California Bar Journal:
A dentist whose license was revoked for having sex with his patients has now lost his law license as well. CRAIG DOUGLAS FOSTER [#179488], 61, of Haleiwa, Hawaii, was disbarred Feb. 4, 2012, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court.
Foster was a practicing dentist from 1975-2000, specializing in treatment for temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). He routinely prescribed narcotic medications for pain relief, sleep and muscle relaxation and injected narcotic medications for pain relief during therapy appointments. State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz said in her ruling that the nature of Foster’s practice cultivated intimacy and dependency. Foster’s dental license was revoked in 2000 as a result of sexual liaisons with his drug-dependent patients. He repealed [sic: appealed?] the revocation, which was upheld by the Sacramento County Superior Court.
The State Bar proceedings focused on four female patients treated between 1993-1998. Armendariz found that Foster induced two patients to enter in a sexual relationship with him while they “were vulnerable due to being heavily medicated and suffering from depression and chronic pain.” He falsely documented procedures performed on those patients. His conduct amounted to moral turpitude, the court found.
In addition, he violated the law by making misleading statements and advertisements, having sex with patients, using the term “doctor” without indication of a certificate and engaging in unprofessional conduct.
About 80 percent of Foster’s patients were women and his practice focused on stress reduction. Appointments typically lasted one to two hours and during therapy, Foster often massaged and manipulated the muscles of the patients’ jaw, shoulders, upper back and upper chest. He did not have a physical therapist on staff. Patients were generally alone with Foster during treatment, and he often discussed their marriages, relationships, business and family stresses during appointments.
One of Foster’s patients became addicted to Vicodin and Dalmane while under his care. Some of his actions violated the standard of care. Although the patient had taken nothing stronger than Ibuprofin prior to being treated by Foster, he prescribed medication including Dalmane, Vicodin and Flexoril and he injected her with Demerol and bee venom.
According to the bar court’s findings, the woman was comforted by Foster’s interest in her and confided that her husband was abusive. She believed his assurances that he could eliminate the stress in her life. Although she rejected his invitations to accompany him to Costa Rica and Mexico, she eventually flew with him in his plane to his home in Dunsmuir. The couple began a sexual relationship.
Foster also claimed that he performed an arthroscopic procedure on the woman, when he had not. He misrepresented the nature of the medical treatment to those paying the patient’s bills or otherwise involved in her care.
Another patient, who suffered from jaw problems because of two automobile accidents, had been evaluated by nine or 10 other health providers before seeing Foster. He immediately began asking her to lunch, but the woman had a boyfriend and wasn’t attracted to Foster.
Foster told her she needed to reduce the stress in her life and he was her “counselor.” She eventually came to view him as her “salvation” and confided in him. She began dating Foster, went with him to Costa Rica and also spent time with him in Dunsmuir and at his Sacramento apartment/legal office above his dental office.
Armendariz said the woman was “particularly vulnerable to (Foster’s) pressure and influence” and that he cultivated those feelings through his “intensive therapeutic approach and intrusive personal involvement” with his patients. In her case, he also falsely documented one procedure as being arthroscopic surgery.
Armendariz said she found that much of his testimony during a five-day trial lacked credibility; some was inconsistent with documentary evidence or conflicted with prior statements. At times, the judge said, his “testimony appeared contrived and less than forthright.” For example, he initially testified he had sex with six to 10 patients, later changed the numbers to eight to 10, and before the Dental Board, claimed sex with 10 to 20 patients. Armendariz said she did not believe Foster’s assertion that sex with two patients was consensual. He “knew or should have known that he was abusing his position as a health care practitioner and preying on the vulnerabilities of his clients for his own personal benefit,” she wrote.
Foster was disciplined by the bar in 2007 for improperly withdrawing from a case and commingling personal funds in his client trust account.