Can you still be “Dr. Wonderful” after conviction for sexual exploitation of a patient?

It’s probably the most egregious violation of professional conduct that any obstetrician-gynecologist can commit. I’m talking about the sexual exploitation of a patient.

You might think that such a doctor would be a pariah among patients, especially after a conviction, and the decision by the California Board of Medicine to place him on probation for 7 years, but you’d be wrong about this doctor. He is currently soliciting donations from patients and supporters for his latest legal woes, precipitated by routinely ignoring hospital policy, and women are proudly giving money.

What group of women would deliberately ignore a conviction for sexual exploitation and rally around a doctor in spite of it? Homebirth advocates, of course. They have chosen to ignore the behavior of Dr. Stuart Fischbein because he provides back up for homebirth midwives.

Dr. Fischbein is widely hailed within homebirth circles. He works with Ricki Lake on her website, and is routinely praised for his public “Letter to ACOG” condemning their stance on a variety of issues. I can only imagine what happened at the headquarters of ACOG when they received the letter. They must have been shocked and then laughed out loud at the audacity of a doctor convicted of sexual exploitation daring to lecture them on their responsibilities to patients.

The offense was described by the Ventura County Star:

His patient, identified in Medical Board records as S.K., was 14 years younger than he and earning her doctorate degree in psychology. She came to Fischbein’s office in Century City with her fiancee. They wanted to have a baby.

… He performed surgery … to remove a mass in her uterus and called her “sweet pea” in the recovery room. He sat at her bedside for long intimate talks, testifying in a hearing he viewed her as not just a patient, but as a woman…

S.K. said Fischbein told her he would be a better father than her fiancee. He persuaded her to leave him.

They talked about the ethics of doctor-patient relationships. She said he told her he dated “bushels” of patients. Fischbein denied the comment or any other relationship with a patient.

She said he advised her not to have sex for four to six weeks after surgery. Fischbein said in court he didn’t remember the discussion.

Five days after she was released from the hospital and eight days after surgery, he called and asked to visit her at her home in Los Angeles. They had sex then and again two days later at Fischbein’s home.

He testified it was consensual. She said she viewed him as a doctor who had performed a surgery that was going to enable her to have a baby. He had become a hero who seemed almost “godlike.” And he was interested in her.

“I would have done anything he would have told me to do,” said the woman, who is suing Fischbein. “I look back with my hindsight and with my mind today and say, How could I have done this?'”

The contrast between this description and the accolades of his supporters are jarring, to say the least.

The post by Rixa Freeze on her website Stand and Deliver is typical of the response of the homebirth community to Dr. Fischbein’s latest legal difficulties.

…[A] wonderful obstetrician, Dr. Stuart Fischbein, is being threatened with disciplinary action by his hospital “for violating hospital policies.” The hospital has already suspended the privileges of the two CNMs he works with, and now he faces a possible loss of his livelihood…

Dr. Fischbein is a vocal supporter of midwifery and home birth. His collaborative midwife practice had a primary c-section rate last year of only 5% … and an overall rate of 12% … compared to his colleagues’ 29%…

So what can you do to help?

1. Contribute to Dr. Fischbein’s Legal Aid Fund. Make Paypal Payment to or mail a check payable to Alan J. Sedley, Attorney at Law…

Dr. Fischbein claims that he is being faced with the loss of hospital privileges for repeatedly violating hospital policy on VBACs and breech deliveries. That is certainly possible since subjecting the hospital, nurses and other doctors to the risk of legal liability that they have chosen not to undertake is certainly a reason for losing privileges. However, the peer review process is protected by strict confidentiality on the part of the hospital. There is no way to know whether this is the primary or only cause for the peer review.

I take a dim view of soliciting money from patients and supporters for a legal defense when those patients and supporters have no way of knowing what the actual charges are. It seems only reasonable that if Dr. Fischbein is soliciting money for his legal defense, he should waive the hospital’s mandated confidentiality, so that they can tell their side of the story.

Homebirth advocates have every right to forgive Dr. Fischbein for sexual exploitation. Yet I feel compelled to ask: Is homebirth so important that any doctor who supports it, even one who has acknowledged sexually exploiting a patient, is worthy of the designation “Dr. Wonderful?”