Solomon surrenders medical license He also files for bankruptcy protection, delaying action on ex-patients' lawsuits

September 23, 1993|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

Dr. Neil Solomon announced yesterday that he has given up his medical license and filed for bankruptcy as a result of the multimillion-dollar lawsuits filed by three former patients who allege he improperly engaged in sexual relationships with them.

"Today, 32 years of practicing good medicine comes to an untimely end, one forced for reasons that center on recent legal actions that have shattered my career and reputation, hurting my family and me in the process," Dr. Solomon said in a prepared statement.

Dr. Solomon's lawyer, E. Dale Adkins III, declined to discuss why the former state health secretary decided to surrender his license to the Maryland Board of Physician Quality Assurance.

"That is beyond the area I want to comment on," he said, adding he advised his client "not to talk to the press."

In his statement faxed to The Sun late last night, Dr. Solomon said the "anonymous women" suing him for $140 million made "a number of false allegations" and he filed the bankruptcy petition to protect his family "from a fate they can not afford and do not deserve."

The Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition, filed Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore, could delay -- if not entirely derail -- proceedings in the lawsuits, lawyers said.

Notice of the bankruptcy petition was filed in Baltimore Circuit Court, resulting in an automatic stay of the lawsuits, the plaintiffs' lawyer, Joanne L. Suder, said earlier in the day.

"From what I'm told, it's obviously going to make the road much more difficult for the plaintiffs," she said.

The three women, whose names are not public, filed the lawsuits in July and August. At the time, Dr. Solomon, a prospective 1994 gubernatorial candidate, accused Ms. Suder and her clients of trying to smear him and promised to "aggressively and vigorously" fight charges in the suits.

Mr. Adkins was unable to say last night whether Dr. Solomon will formally abandon his gubernatorial aspirations or continue writing his nationally syndicated newspaper medical column.

Since the filing of the lawsuits, he had stopped exploring the possibility of a candidacy and resigned as chairman of three state commissions -- on drug and alcohol abuse, AIDS and health care reform.

In last night's statement, Dr. Solomon renewed his criticism of Ms. Suder and the plaintiffs who are "allowed to hide behind the cloak of anonymity" for seeking a court order that he undergo AIDS testing. He accused them of "manipulation of the media."

Dr. Solomon said the motion on AIDS testing was filed "despite the fact that [Ms. Suder] knows that as a responsible physician, I am routinely tested for AIDS and have tested negatively for this disease.

"I can only believe that the court papers were filed as part of a continuing effort to obtain a settlement in the lawsuits and to obtain publicity for the lawyer. Accordingly, I have asked my attorney to file for sanctions as a result of the filing of that motion."

He also said the plaintiffs and their lawyer recently "suggested that the suits could be changed to allege improper endocrinology care, if I would admit to these charges" -- and thereby make the case subject to insurance coverage "I currently do not have."

He added, "I refuse to engage in such conduct."

Dr. Solomon said he felt the plaintiffs would continue to try the cases "in the press."

"Under such circumstances," he said, "I can not possibly hope to win the battle and it is equally unrealistic that I continue to practice medicine."

Dr. Solomon concluded: "I can still look back with pride to my last several decades of public service to the citizens of Maryland. But I can not afford the continued expense of this legal fight and I will not prolong the suffering of my family and my self, which is why I have taken the actions."

Under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, ordinarily sought by an individual wage-earner, the debtor would file a budget with the court and agree to make partial payment to creditors over a period up to five years.

But it remained unclear last night what, if any, actual debts were a factor in Dr. Solomon's filing.

"Dr. Solomon does not have substantial assets either to pay lawyers, to pay court reporters or, in the unlikely event these cases were lost, to pay the $140 million or so that the plaintiffs have requested," Mr. Adkins said last night.

"He also doesn't have the psychological assets to endure different releases and motions being filed each week, and, accordingly, on Monday afternoon, his bankruptcy counsel -- in conjunction with me -- filed a petition for bankruptcy protection.

"I understand that petition will stay these cases and put an end to them, and presumably we won't have some motion filed and sent to the newspapers every week."

Asked whether Dr. Solomon is able to pay his debts, Mr. Adkins said, "I am not a bankruptcy lawyer, but it is my understanding that the specialists in bankruptcy say in light of the damage amounts claimed by the plaintiffs, he meets the requirements."

Ms. Suder said, "It means the proceedings will have to be stayed. We won't be able to go ahead.

"I can just say that we are quite disappointed by this new action. Although I have not had the opportunity to discuss it with all of my clients, the clients that know about it are equally disappointed."

Each of the former patients suing Dr. Solomon claims he improperly lured her into a sexual relationship while under his care.

Dr. Solomon was Maryland's first secretary of health and mental hygiene, from 1969 to 1979, and in recent years has had a private practice in Towson specializing in weight control, allergies, fitness and smoking cessation.

He developed and marketed the Slice of Life Weight Loss Program and has written several books, including "The Truth about Weight Control" and "Doctor Solomon's Easy, No Risk Diet."

His syndicated column is distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and appears weekly in The Evening Sun.

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