Jennifer Margulis, why are you lauding a doctor convicted of sexually exploiting a patient?

Blured text with focus on SEXUAL

One of the things I absolutely adore about homebirth advocates is that no sooner do I write a blistering take-down of their behavior than I turn around and find yet another spectacular example of said behavior.

On Friday, I wrote about the evil at the heart of homebirth advocacy. Homebirth advocates promote pure, unadulterated evil by aiding, abetting, and praising killer practitioners. Apparently homebirth advocates have never met an incident of babyslaughter that they can’t justify (to themselves).

Now Jennifer Margulis goes a step further. She lauds a doctor criminally convicted of sexually exploiting a patient.

Because home birth is gentler than hospital birth. Just ask this M.D. who used to fight with his colleagues to allow women to have VBACs and vaginal breech births in the hospital but now attends home births in southern California, including twins and breech babies.

Apparently his conviction for sexual exploitation perfectly okay as long as he supports homebirth.

Margulis’ piece is Why Doctors, Nurses, and Other Medical Professionals Are Choosing to Birth at Home. It is a classic example of the ignorant leading the gullible. Margulis’ found two (just count ’em, 1, 2) physicians who support homebirth. And that is supposed to prove what, precisely? That some doctors are venal enough to promote a deadly practice in an effort to make money through books, workshops and attracting new patients?

There are nearly 900,000 active physicians in the US and Margulis found 2. That means that 0.00022% of physicians support homebirth. The climate deniers are supported by a higher proportion of climate scientists, and the creationists are supported by a higher proportion of biologists. What a resounding endorsement … NOT!

So the post is pretty stupid on its face and would only convince those profoundly challenged by basic arithmetic and that isn’t even the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that Jennifer Margulis features a doctor convicted of sexually exploiting a patient, Dr. Stuart Fischbein. I first wrote about Fischbein in 2009 (Can you still be “Dr. Wonderful” after conviction for sexual exploitation of a patient?). What did he do?

According to 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.

Fischbein was convicted of sexual exploitation in LA County Superior Court. The Medical Board of California placed him on probation for 7 years. The sordid story doesn’t end there.

In 2011, Fischbein petitioned the Board for early termination of his probation.

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The board was unimpressed with Fischbein’s request for a variety of reasons. However, most compelling to them was the fact that Dr. Fischbein has attempted to make a movie promoting “his side” of events, and portraying himself as a victim.

12. In the Fall of 2007, after Petitioner was placed on probation by the Board, he began working with a screenwriter friend on a … a script entitled “Bedside Man.” By this time. Petitioner had already completed the PACE Professional Boundaries program. The cover of the script states it is “based on a true story,” and credits “Story by Stuart Fischbein.” A promotional trailer was later made, in which Petitioner was also involved and credited… Although fictional names are used in the story, the script and trailer are obviously based on Petitioner’s version of events. [They] tend to minimize Petitioner’s culpability, make him look more like a victim and his victim less of one, and depict Petitioner as being persecuted for his views on some aspects of medicine.

13. In an effort to promote “Bedside Man” for financial investment to make a full length movie, the trailer was made accessible over the internet. One hospital where Petitioner was affiliated found out about it and contacted Petitioner’s psychotherapist… From her letter detailing the events, it appears that [she] was readily able to see the impropriety of the project while Petitioner had not. She told him that the project “did not represent him as a man who had made a terrible error in judgment.” [The psychotherapist] persuaded Petitioner that the project was an error and for the trailer to be removed from the internet. Petitioner has done so.

The Board did not terminate the probation, writing:

[He] views probation as punishment and an inconvenience… Although he no doubt has encountered difficulties practicing while on probation, he still tends to overstate those difficulties. He has openly chaffed at the requirement that he have a third party chaperone during interactions with female patients. It is clear that once off probation, the chaperone requirement would quickly disappear from his practice as the lessons learned from these events fade and the inconvenience grows…

The report concludes:

More alarming was Petitioner’s participation in the movie script and trailer. This activity shows that Petitioner still harbors bad feelings about what happened to him, suggesting that he does not fully believe he engaged in misconduct… Such a state of mind does not bode well for the proposition of removing Petitioner completely from the Board’s probationary oversight. In all, these events demonstrate sufficient concern over the course of Petitioner’s rehabilitation as to indicate that continuing probation with all terms should continue in order to protect the public…

Yes, it is alarming and disturbing that Fischbein does not understand the seriousness of the crime. It is equally disturbing that Margulis and other homebirth advocates do not understand the seriousness of the crime and are prepared to overlook it. Sexual assault and sexual exploitation are very serious problems in this country. It is appalling that Margulis would dismiss such egregious behavior in her desperation to find someone, anyone, to support homebirth.

I hope that she will remove any reference to Fischbein in her post and stop lauding a doctor convicted of sexually exploiting a patient. To portray such a doctor favorably, and to fail to warn other women of his conviction, is, in my view, nothing short of evil.