From Couch to Courtroom

A patient sues her ex-lover and psychiatrist, alleging "mind control."

IN JANUARY 1995, DALLAS PSYchiatrist Dr, David Joel Korman went before the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners and admitted that he had engaged in a sexual relationship with a patient, a violation of medical ethics. At a board hearing in July, Korman acknowledged that for several months starting in the fall of 1990, he had sex with a woman identified in board records as “T.P.” Korman said the therapy- and the lovemaking-ended in December 1990, after which time he made a number of financial payments to the woman.

Despite his admission, Korman wasn’t barred from practicing psychiatry. The board restricted his license for five years and ordered him not to treat female patients except for short-term acute care in a hospital setting. He also was told to take six hours of ethics training and undergo treatment by a psychiatrist. He now works at Rusk State Mental Hospital where he can still treat female patients, a ruling that strikes some psychiatrists as misguided. If Korman isn’t qualified to treat private patients, why should he be allowed to treat those in a state hospital?

“It’s absolutely, totally unacceptable lor psychiatrists to have sexual relationships with pa-ients,” says Dr. Lynn Markle, copresident of the Dallas Area Women Psychiatrists. “I’m not sure they shouldn’t have their licenses pulled.”

The leniency shown Korman and others like him is not unusual. Hearings to prove a doctor’s guilt or innocence can be long and expensive. Those physicians who admit to the board that they have a problem and agree to seek treatment generally don’t lose their medical licenses, says Tim Weitz, general counsel for the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners.

Korman admitted his problem, but his actions look anything but contrite. He hired criminal attorney John McShane and went to the board only after “T.P.” filed a $1 million lawsuit against him in December 1994, revealing her identity as Traci Pittard, a Dallas woman in her early 30s.

Pittard alleges that Korman, who began treating her for “substance abuse and emotional and mental problems” when she was admitted to Timberlawn Hospital in May 1988, left her suffering from “mind control” and “emotional abuse.” Oddly enough, the amended petition filed by Pittard’s attorney on Dec. 4 specifically excludes any claims arising out of their sexual relationship; in fact, the attorney even filed a motion to keep out any such evidence-perhaps because Korman s $1 million medical malpractice insurance policy doesn’t cover sexual misconduct.


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