Woman Claims Hospital Let Doc Run Wild

     SAVANNAH, Ga. (CN) – A Georgia hospital’s psychiatrist overprescribed narcotics to get sex from patients, and committed Medicaid fraud along the way, a former patient claims in court.
     Amie Tatum sued Memorial Health University Medical Center and Memorial Health Inc., on behalf of the State of Georgia, in Chatham County State Court.
     Georgia declined to intervene, according to Tatum’s amended complaint.
     Savannah-based Memorial employed psychiatrist William Ellien at its Clark Center for Behavioral Medicine. In 2008, it appointed Ellien as the medical director of the Clark Center, according to the complaint.
     Ellien is not a defendant, but Tatum is not the first woman to sue the hospital for his alleged misdeeds.
     An exotic dancer sued the hospital in September 2012, claiming that Ellien, whom she had met in a strip club, overprescribed her with narcotics and sexually assaulted her. That complaint did not name Ellien as a defendant either.
     Ellien, 58, was arrested in January, accused of illegally distributing controlled substances for no legitimate medical reason, according to the Savannah Morning News.
     A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent submitted an affidavit stating that “a number of witnesses” had told investigators they had sex with Ellien in exchange for drugs, the newspaper reported.
     In her complaint, Tatum, a former patient, claims she met Ellien through a friend who told her Ellien would prescribe narcotics without therapeutic justification.
     Tatum claims that Ellien offered to treat her anxiety and prescribed Xanax and other psychoactive drugs.
     “During the course of his treatment, Dr. Ellien solicited an improper and illegal sexual relationship with relator,” the complaint states. “When relator refused, Dr. Ellien continued his attempts to persuade her to engage in a sexual relationship with him by offering excessive amounts of prescription drugs.
     “Dr. Ellien instructed relator to use her Medicaid benefits to have some of her prescriptions filled. Dr. Ellien instructed relator to use cash, which he provided, and to use a different pharmacy from where her prescriptions were filled using Medicaid, to fill large doses of benzodiazepine and other prescription drugs.”
     Tatum claims Ellien got her addicted to the drugs, and continued to prescribe them even when she was pregnant.
     There is controversy concerning the safety of benzodiazepines in pregnancy. Uncertainty remains as to whether they can cause cleft palate and other birth defects.
     “As a result of Dr. Ellien’s conduct, of which Memorial was actually or constructively aware, relator received medications in amounts exceeding the quantity or therapeutic limits imposed on Medicaid transactions,” the complaint states. “Relator developed an addictive dependency on benzodiazepines, necessitating rehabilitative treatment and further draining Medicaid funds.”
     Tatum claims Memorial approved Ellien’s prescriptions for outpatients, including her, despite knowing that the Clark Center was solely an inpatient facility.
     She claims that Memorial failed to report Ellien, and that it has a history of covering up its doctors’ and staff’s wrongdoing and unprofessional conduct.
     The complaint states: “Many instances illustrate Memorial’s tacit consent of such behavior, including: (a) failure to investigate or discipline a pediatric endocrinologist, after allegations of sexual abuse of children; (b) failing to discipline a radiologist, who subjected a resident to sexual harassment, choosing instead to move the resident into a private program; and (c) failing to appropriately address the conduct of another Clark Center physician who overprescribed and had sex with a mentally ill female patient. Finally, here, Memorial knowingly and tacitly consented to Dr. Ellien’s provision of controlled prescriptions substances to outpatients despite the Clark Center’s status as a solely inpatient facility.”
     Tatum seeks damages for Medicaid fraud, aiding and abetting fraud, vicarious liability, negligence and conspiracy.
     She is represented by Sherri Watts with the Tate Law Group.

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