Fallout from Solomon and Price

November 02, 1993

Has Neil Solomon done for Maryland's medical community what Anne Arundel County school teacher Ronald W. Price did for education? We can only hope so.

The cases of Dr. Solomon and Price share several characteristics: Doctor and teacher misused their positions of trust for sexual pleasure. And both apparently preyed on particularly vulnerable people in their care.

Dr. Solomon was a nationally renowned weight-loss specialist who was regarded as a gubernatorial candidate this year before three former female patients filed suit against him for luring them into sexual relationships. Price was the Northeast High School teacher and coach who was sentenced last month to 26 years in prison for having sex with three students.

In both instances the misuse of power continued, amazingly, over 20 years before victims finally came forward to put an end to the misconduct and the careers of both men.

The Price case caused immense pain -- for the students he seduced, for his school, for the entire county public education system. The value that has come of it, though, is that it has made students more aware of proper relationships with their teachers, made parents more cognizant of such possibilities, and made teachers and administrators more attuned to questionable behavior by co-workers and staffs.

No, Price was not the norm. But if a recent report by a school system investigator is any indication, with details of a teacher having her sixth graders remove her blouse and bra to administer back rubs, he wasn't alone.

Similarly, the publicity of the Solomon case -- from the local media to the jokes it has spawned for Tonight Show host Jay Leno's monologue -- should empower patients not to let physicians misuse their relationship and should remind doctors that their careers and reputations can crumble as fast as Neil Solomon's for the sake of a peccadillo. And while most doctors know better, the state Board of Physician Quality Assurance estimates that it takes action against 30 doctors a year for charges related to sex.

These episodes should not weaken the trust that people invest in their doctors and teachers. But these high-profile incidents ought to serve as reminders that trust should not be allowed to destroy an individual's self-respect and that exploitation of the vulnerable is both cowardly and barbaric.

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