Solomon's patients: trust betrayed, lives ruined Other doubts arise about his ethics, medical practices THE RISE AND FALL OF DR. NEIL SOLOMON

October 31, 1993|By Jonathan Bor, Frank D. Roylance and Douglas Birch | Jonathan Bor, Frank D. Roylance and Douglas Birch,Staff Writers

THE BALTIMORE SUN Dr. Neil Solomon was a godsend, a doctor who listened, looked his patients in the eye and said he understood. No other doctor had paid attention to the overweight, depressed women who traveled great distances to see him.

The sex didn't start right away. First there were compliments -- "I find you desirable" -- a surprising touch, a kiss. By the time the intimacies began, they seemed a natural outgrowth of an uncommon bond between doctor and patient.

Former patients interviewed by The Sun described a pattern -- of a doctor who rescued them from the rubble of their shattered self-images, then exploited their trust by luring them into sex. For several, the aftermath has been ruinous: a broken marriage, a nervous collapse, depression and years of psychotherapy.

The aftermath has been equally ruinous for Dr. Solomon, Maryland's first health secretary and most visible physician, who since the early 1970s had actively promoted himself through diet books, a nationally syndicated health column and TV talk show appearances.

Dr. Solomon surrendered his medical license Wednesday after admitting 20 years of sexual improprieties with at least eight female patients. In one of its harshest sanctions, a state medical board made it virtually impossible for him to practice medicine anywhere again.

But Dr. Solomon's public admission revealed only one aspect of the questions surrounding his medical practice. A two-month investigation by The Sun, which included a review of public documents and interviews with 56 people -- former patients, former employees, medical professionals and others -- has found evidence not only of sexual misconduct but also of questionable ethics and medical practices:

* Bud Cohen, a retired marketing consultant from Arizona, said a four-year affair between his wife and Dr. Solomon destroyed his marriage. He said the affair began in the early 1970s after his wife began flying cross-country to see the doctor for weight control.

* A former patient said she was lying on an examining table one day when Dr. Solomon, without warning, forced an act of oral sex. She said the episode, which occurred when she was a young woman, left her devasted and she has seen psychotherapists ever since.

* Denise Parr, two weeks into her job as a medical technician in Dr. Solomon's office, said she was startled when he asked her to give him an electrocardiogram and then inexplicably stripped naked for the test. The 20-year-old was fired after telling (P co-workers of the incident.

* Hilda B. Falk of New York City spent more than $31,000 on treatments, mostly allergy drops made and sold by Dr. Solomon's office during the three years she was his patient. Before she died in 1988, she wrote a new will that placed him in line to inherit $575,000 from her estate. After her death, her family filed a malpractice suit, then settled the case by forcing Dr. Solomon to forgo the inheritance.

* Dr. Solomon built a $500,000-a-year medical practice founded on theories concerning the diagnosis and treatment of allergies that have not been supported by scientific investigation. A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1990 said the methods work only by the power of suggestion, and "independent of the contents of the syringe."

* Smokers and overweight women flocked to Dr. Solomon in response to magazine articles about his theories that cigarette smoking and obesity could be treated as allergies.

Dr. Martin Douglas Valentine, clinical director of the Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center, said the assertion that obesity can be treated by "neutralizing" a food allergy "is baloney. . . . It doesn't work, and there has never been a study that has shown that it works." That similar treatments might cure a tobacco habit "makes no sense medically," he said.

* Dr. Solomon's professional image was enhanced by his faculty appointments at the Hopkins and University of Miami medical schools, yet those affiliations were less than they seemed. Dr. Paul McHugh, chairman of psychiatry at Hopkins, said Dr. Solomon's title of assistant professor of psychiatry was merely a "courtesy appointment" given to the state's health secretary.

Dr. Roger Palmer, former chairman of pharmacology at Miami, said Dr. Solomon was given the title clinical professor of pharmacology for his involvement in a single study on smoking. Dr. Palmer recalled Dr. Solomon's visiting a few times to discuss the study but did not recall his teaching.

Offered repeated opportunities to comment on the allegations contained in this article, Dr. Solomon steadfastly declined. "I'd 00 love to talk, but on the advice of counsel, I just can't," he said.

His attorney, E. Dale Adkins III, said, "I simply think it would not be productive to meet with you to discuss the allegations or information that you proposed to put in your article."

Praise from ex-patients

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.