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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Psychiatrist Wins Round in Suspension Dispute

(CN) - A psychiatrist who was fired for "using inappropriate sexually explicit language" with two patients can sue his employer for defamation for allegedly not going far enough to obtain the facts, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled.

Dr. William K. Summers sued Ardent Health Services and Lovelace Health Systems after they suspended his medical privileges based on the allegations.

One patient said Summers suggested that she experiment with sex and drugs, and that Summers said the "F"-word between 15 and 20 times.

Another patient complained that Summers asked inappropriate sexual questions during his consultation with her.

Summers explained that the second patient took his questions out of context, and that he was only trying to take her sexual history. With the first patient, he claimed his approach "was to try and break through her defense mechanisms by shocking her into addressing her feelings and behaviors," the ruling states.

Summers sued Ardent and Lovelace for defamation, breach of contract and tortious interference with prospective contracts.

The health providers sought dismissal, arguing that the professional review process was conducted properly, and that they were entitled to immunity from the doctor's claims.

But both the trial court and the appeals court sided with Summers, saying he made a sufficient claim that the defendants didn't make reasonable efforts to find facts.

"Dr. Summers' suspension hinged on Patient B's allegations, and ... a reasonable jury, viewing these facts in the best light for Dr. Summers, could conclude by a preponderance of the evidence that defendants were unreasonable in their fact-finding efforts," Judge Michael Bustamante wrote.

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