Woman sues her doctor, claiming he started affair

April 01, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

A 45-year-old Columbia woman is seeking $10.5 million in damages in a civil lawsuit she has filed against a Columbia psychiatrist and Howard County General Hospital for a three-year romantic relationship she had with the doctor.

The woman claims in the suit that the psychiatrist violated ethical principles against doctors having relationships with their patients.

The woman contends in the suit that Dr. John Hamilton initiated the relationship in July 1988 during a session at the hospital and that he terminated the affair in March 1991.

The state Physician Quality Assurance Board suspended Dr. Hamilton's license in March 1993 because of the relationship, said Michael Compton, the board's director.

Dr. Hamilton is permitted to petition the board to get his license back after the first year of the suspension. Mr. Compton declined to say whether the psychiatrist has yet filed the petition.

If Dr. Hamilton gets his license back, he will be permitted to treat only male patients for at least a three-year period, Mr. Compton said.

The lawsuit, filed March 25 in Howard Circuit Court, asserts that Dr. Hamilton led the woman to believe that he would leave his wife and that they would live together.

"At various times throughout his relationship with her, Dr. Hamilton told the plaintiff that she would not get well if she terminated their relationship and that he would kill himself if she discontinued the relationship," the suit says.

The Sun is not going to publish the name of the woman, who was being treated for depression and multiple personality disorder. She also was said to be suicidal, according to the suit.

David Kagan-Kans, a Washington attorney for the woman, declined to comment on the case.

David Bamberger, a Washington lawyer for Dr. Hamilton, said his client will not comment on the suit.

Michael Baxter, a Baltimore attorney representing Howard County General, said hospital officials took proper steps after they learned of the alleged relationship. He noted that they notified the physicians board and ordered Dr. Hamilton not to treat the woman at the hospital again.

The lawsuit notes, however, that Dr. Hamilton continued treating the woman outside of the hospital.

The woman charges in the suit that Dr. Hamilton should have kept a detached, unbiased attitude during their sessions. In addition, he should have referred her to another therapist upon initiating the relationship.

Meanwhile, hospital officials are negligent for failing to properly monitor Dr. Hamilton's actions and to fully investigate the woman's allegations, the suit says.

In addition, the hospital should have ordered Dr. Hamilton to refer the woman to another therapist after officials learned of the relationship, the suit says.

The woman went to the hospital for treatment in March 1988 after she had been sexually assaulted and began inpatient treatment with Dr. Hamilton, the suit says.

The woman was released from the hospital after a monthlong stay and began outpatient treatment with Dr. Hamilton, the suit says.

Dr. Hamilton told the woman that he was in love with her during a session in July 1988, the suit says. He initiated physical contact with her and talked about establishing a relationship at other sessions, starting in August 1988.

A county minister, an acquaintance of the woman, went to Dr. Hamilton in December 1988, insisting that he refer the woman to another psychiatrist because of the relationship, the suit says.

Dr. Hamilton admitted to the minister that he had "crossed some lines," the suit says. The minister informed hospital officials of the relationship in January 1989, the suit says. Officials temporarily suspended Dr. Hamilton from treating the woman while they investigated the allegations.

Dr. Hamilton denied any romantic involvement with the woman at a meeting with the minister and hospital officials, claiming she distorted reality with her fantasies of him, the suit says.

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