Accounts of pot use, sex with patients prompt state to lift doctor's license Physician's lawyer assails allegations

April 30, 1993|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer

The patients said they had chronic fatigue syndrome. The doctor, they allege, treated them with sex and drugs, claimed he was God, fathered children and said he was the source of the universe, from a "higher spiritual realm."

On Wednesday, a state board suspended the license of Dr. Robert A. Hallowitz, 48, a Gaithersburg family practitioner who has lectured nationally on chronic fatigue syndrome. The charges include immoral conduct, drug use and failure to meet appropriate medical standards.

The action by the state Board of Physician Quality Assurance came after three patients filed complaints, telling state investigators about cult-like practices that included invitations to walk side by side with him in love, light and truth," as well as threats of "spiritual excommunication" should his patients not "stay in line."

The patients, some of whom the doctor introduced to each other, also allege that Dr. Hallowitz said he was committed to fathering many children by many "wives." And they say he referred to the devil, whom he called "Lenny."

The state board suspended Dr. Hallowitz's license before holding a hearing, which is set for next month.

J. Michael Compton, the board's executive director, says the board acts before a hearing in about 10 percent of its cases, when it believes that a physician's continuing practice endangers the public's health, safety and welfare.

Dr. Hallowitz declined to comment. His lawyer, Fred R. Joseph, said the doctor "maintains his innocence and looks forward to defending his license and his reputation."

The physician quality assurance board oversees doctors' licensing and could bar Dr. Hallowitz from practicing in Maryland.

One of the patients who complained to the licensing panel has also filed a malpractice claim against him with the state Health Claims Arbitration Office. David Pleat, the patient's lawyer, had no comment last night except to say the woman was seeking monetary damages. The Sun is not naming the Gaithersburg patient because of the sexual nature of the allegations.

Yesterday, the licensing board released two of its investigative reports -- involving five patients identified only as Patients A, B, C, D and E.

"I've never had one quite like this before," Mr. Compton said. "We've had drug cases and sex cases and standard-of-care cases, but this is the first time we've had three in one."

The investigation began March 15 when a woman called the board alleging that she'd had sex with Dr. Hallowitz for four years -- in his office, in her home and in a Day's Inn, all as part of her treatment for chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome. Such patients typically complain of weakness and exhaustion.

They met up to three times a week for lunchtime sex and to smoke marijuana or hashish, she said. The woman, Patient A, said Dr. Hallowitz warned her that "those that 'turned from him' would not regain their health," according to the board's report. She allegedly ended the relationship in October, 1990. Since then, the report says, she has attempted suicide twice.

Patient B, a man, went to Dr. Hallowitz in 1980 for treatment of cold sores. Over the next 10 years, he visited the doctor up to 10 times a month. In 1983, Dr. Hallowitz began treating the man's wife, Patient C, in the couple's home. The man told investigators he would meditate, clean up or care for the children while Dr. Hallowitz took the wife into an upstairs bedroom for sex.

Patient B told state investigators that his wife and Dr. Hallowitz announced in 1985 that the child she was carrying was the doctor's. The doctor, according to the report, said he would "bring his 'light and love into the world' by entering into sexual relations with certain women and fathering children."

Eventually, according to the report, the woman told her husband that two of their four children were actually fathered by the doctor.

Since 1990, the report says, Patient B has been seeing a psychologist. His wife is still Dr. Hallowitz's patient, the man says.

Patient D, according to the report, was a woman who had sex with the doctor at lunchtime for about six months in 1987.

Patient E, according to the doctor's medical records, consulted him for symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome for a month in 1987. The woman said Dr. Hallowitz talked about a group he'd like her to join, saying he had a secret mission "bigger than the CIA," the report says. Dr. Hallowitz also reportedly "told her stories about people who had displeased him meeting untimely deaths." And he referred to "Lenny."

She stopped visiting him and consulted a psychiatrist.

Mr. Joseph, the doctor's lawyer, protested yesterday that the physician's license was suspended "without his having the opportunity to confront witnesses against him, without his having the opportunity to have counsel and without having a real hearing on the issues.

"Almost two decades of medical practice was worth very little in terms of rights afforded him," Mr. Joseph said. "I represent alleged rapists and murderers who were afforded more rights than he got. He's nationally known. He's lectured across the country on this issue."

A 1970 graduate of the University of Rochester medical school, Dr. Hallowitz is licensed to practice medicine in New York and California, according to state records. He received his Maryland license in May 1974.

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