August 12, 2013
“Doctor Sues Former Patients Over Allegations Of Sexual Contact”
Crystal Lake neurologist never charged with crime, but license was suspended last year
Robert McCoppin, Chicago Tribune
A doctor in Crystal Lake is suing three former patients for defamation over their allegations that he fondled them in his office.
Dr. Mahesh Parikh, a neurologist, had his medical license suspended indefinitely last year as a result of the claims. But he has denied any misconduct and is seeking to have his license reinstated.
His attorney said that since Parikh was stripped of his ability to practice medicine, his reputation has been harmed, he has lost his annual income of $1 million and his home is in foreclosure.
The doctor filed separate defamation lawsuits this month against three former patients and the mother of one of the patients. That woman, who testified against Parikh at regulatory hearings leading to his suspension, said she was taken aback that the lawsuits publicly name the three alleged victims.
“This is an appalling action by a remorseless individual who is trying to intimidate those who would testify against him,” the mother wrote in an email. The Tribune is not naming her or the patients to protect the identities of the three alleged victims of sexual misconduct.
Parikh’s attorney, Rishi Agrawal, said he would file an amended suit that will identify the patients by initials only, calling it a “more appropriate” way to handle the unusual case, but said the baseless allegations against Parikh justified the lawsuits.
“We’re trying to right this wrong for this man who has contributed so much to the community,” Agrawal said. “We’re trying to get him back to practicing medicine.”
In response to an inquiry about Parikh’s lawsuits, Susan Hofer, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, noted that the Medical Practice Act “specifically prohibits breaching patient confidentiality,” and protects people from civil liability if they contact regulators under the act.
Disclosing a patient’s name, without disclosing protected health information, is not generally a violation of federal law, said Joel Shalowitz, director of health industry management at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. But that doesn’t make the lawsuit a good idea in his eyes.
“By making this a very prominent case, (the doctor is) probably making a strategic error in trying to restore his reputation,” said Shalowitz, adding that he had never heard of a similar suit by a doctor against a patient. “If he gets his license back nobody will know, but if he sues, it’s news, and his name will be all over the place.”
The case that led to Parikh losing his license involved a college-age woman who saw him on multiple occasions in 2008 and 2009 to treat migraine headaches and other ailments, according to her testimony at a disciplinary hearing for the doctor.
When the patient complained of breast tenderness, she testified, the doctor said it was a side effect of a drug he had prescribed for her, and he touched her breasts on repeated visits. During later visits, she claimed, he touched her vaginal area under her clothes.
The patient testified that she felt uncomfortable but assumed the doctor was doing what was medically necessary. A state’s expert involved in the disciplinary hearing said there was no medical reason for such exams.
Police also investigated the young woman’s claims, though Parikh was not charged with a crime. Neither Crystal Lake police nor McHenry County prosecutors could be reached for comment on the case. The woman’s mother said authorities told her they lacked evidence to pursue the case.
Parikh was, however, the subject of a disciplinary hearing to determine whether he violated the state Medical Practice Act. An administrative law judge found that the state failed to prove any violation. The judge questioned the young woman’s credibility, saying that her naivete about her treatment didn’t seem to match her age and experience.
The Illinois Medical Disciplinary Board agreed with those findings but was overruled by the state Division of Professional Regulation.
Jay Stewart, director of the division, wrote that Parikh engaged in “unethical” and “immoral” misconduct.
The state’s investigation determined that the doctor “took advantage of an innocent and naive patient over a period of six months,” Stewart wrote. “This was not a brief lapse of judgment or an isolated incident.”
According to his legal filings, Parikh learned from state regulators after his license was suspended that two other women had come forward with claims they had been “touched inappropriately in a sexual manner” while they were patients of Parikh’s. Those two women are among the four he is suing.
One of the women, reached Monday at her home in the northwest suburbs, said she saw Parikh about 25 years ago to treat leg numbness after a car crash.
Parikh’s suit against the woman states that she made “false statements when she falsely accused Dr. Parikh of sexual misconduct in course of being treated by Dr. Parikh.”
She was too embarrassed to tell anyone besides her family and close friends, she said. But when she saw a newspaper account of the most recent allegations against Parikh last year, she said she wanted to back up the patient’s story, and called Crystal Lake police.
She said they referred her to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, where she filed a statement.
“I hate to see him do it to somebody else,” she said.
Through his attorney and his lawsuit against the woman, Parikh stated that he was notified of the woman’s complaint in April but denied the incident took place.
Parikh is seeking reinstatement of his license at a hearing this fall and wants an injunction to bar the four defendants from making further statements against him. He also is seeking at least $5 million in damages from each defendant.