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Tilting at Windmills

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December 18, 2005
By: Shakespeare's Sister

Dr. Demento....This story is just outrageous. A gynecologist has been convicted of two counts of rape and two counts of indecent liberties, and faces up to 23 years in prison, after he (and possibly his twin) abused what may be hundreds of women. On Friday, eight women sued the Washington State Health Department, alleging that the doctor, Charles Momah, was allowed to practice for eight years after the Health Department was made aware of his scumbaggery. The suit also alleges he never should have been licensed to practice medicine in Washington State, having been accused multiple times of malpractice in his former home of New York State.

Another article on Momah clarifies that the state Health Department has been receiving complaints about him since 1995, but did not suspend his license until 2003, which is when they claim they fist had indication of any boundary violations by Dr. Momah. However:

[Daleena Rollins] became concerned about Momah's sexual touching, and switched doctors in early 1995. With the help of the new doctor, she filed a written complaint with the commission that April. The commission assigned a case number but apparently never followed up, the lawsuit said.

And in 1997, the Health Department sent a letter to Momah, indicating he was the target of an investigation for "unprofessional conduct." Further investigations against Momah were launched by the Washington state medical quality assurance commission in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002, and he was censured and reprimanded by the New York State Department of Health in 1999, paying $500,000 to settle civil fraud charges. Still no disciplinary action was taken against him in Washington.

What the hell went so tragically wrong here? I cant imagine why on earth it took so long to stop this nutjob in his tracks. Often, in cases like this, abusive doctors act with impunity for so long because patients are embarrassed to come forward, but that certainly doesnt seem to be the case here. Women were identifying that he was touching and treating them inappropriately and filing complaintscomplaints that were never investigated. Im really at a loss. I never understood the job of state Health Departments to be abetting sex offenders and providing yet more disincentive, by way of indifference, to victims of sex abuse from coming forward.

Shakespeare's Sister 4:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

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Pretty much nodbody believes me, but this problem is of a piece with the malpractice non-crisis: doctors refuse to police themselves, asking instead for their customers to bear the various costs (life & limb, monetary, humiliation, and other).

Posted by: cdj on December 18, 2005 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

What went wrong? This is Washington State, where no bureaucrat has ever been punished for anything that he/she did. The State Medical Board staff did nothing because they KNEW that they really didn't have to. They KNEW that the Attorney General (of either party) would defend them all the way. And they KNEW that their fellow "bureaucrats in robes" would give them each and every break. I suggest that you watch this case as it unfolds - the women will be put through hell (again), this time by the legal system, and the uncaring bureaucrats involved will continue to get their raises, bonuses, and promotions. Washington State is a government employees' paradise where citizens' rights really are not an issue.

Posted by: Brenda Helverson on December 18, 2005 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Shades of the Scheffey case in Texas, where it took almost twenty years to get a surgeon whose patients had a nasty habit of ending up crippled or dead to stop practicing.

Posted by: Steve on December 18, 2005 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Dr. Demento, the radio show host, has every reason to be outraged by the comparison...

I believe he was booted from NY?? for similar reasons.

Posted by: Mudge on December 18, 2005 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Not to make light of a terrible matter, but the thing about his twin reminds me of a really creepy movie that i saw years ago. had jeremy Irons in it, can't remember the title.


Posted by: URK on December 18, 2005 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Another problem with this case is that often the state health department is composed of... yes, doctors. And doctors -- like lawyers or insurance companies -- are loathe to criticize their fellow practitioners, lest they themselves be criticized for their own foibles (or illegalities).

No doctor will ever speak out against another doctor. The medical profession's Law of Omerta puts the Mafia to shame.

Posted by: Andrew on December 18, 2005 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Regulation -- Republican style.

Unless the regulators were Democrats. Then the coming revolution will need to be even more terrible and far-reaching.

Posted by: John Thullen on December 18, 2005 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

No doctor will ever speak out against another doctor.

See, this is what I find particularly interesting (and frustrating) about this case. Usually, that's absolutely true. In this case, some patients were helped by their new doctors file complaints, which makes it all the more curious that the complaints were summarily ignored.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister on December 18, 2005 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

It's the same institutional issue as cops not "ratting" on another another when they beat up black folks, and teachers not doing anything to get rid of the large number of idiots in their midst.

Posted by: cdj on December 18, 2005 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of the twin brother, wasn't there another case within the last year or so, where a male Ob-Gyn let his twin (a dermatologist or something) examine patients? As I recall, it was a middle-eastern-sounding name (not that their nationality has anything to do with the case).

Posted by: Andrew618 on December 18, 2005 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

This case alone might invent a new field of licensure malpractice. At least, it should.

This is typical, actually, in most states. The presumption is almost exclusively on the doctors' side. With GYNs it's especially difficult, because the doc can always retort that the nature of the practice makes it more likely that suspicious women may believe that he went over the line, but when the case is so overwhelming and wide, there is no defense. They might have been within their limits to issue a license, but it should have been revoked a long time ago.

It may be time to start suing the boards for this, and not just medical.

Posted by: buck turgidson on December 18, 2005 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Blogger rule #1: Never start a story with "This story is just outrageous", even if the story is just outrageous.

Posted by: ogmb on December 18, 2005 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

That movie with Jeremy Irons was called Dead Ringers.

Posted by: Kevin on December 18, 2005 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

That Scheffley case reminded me of another story I heard, from a friend of an ex-girlfriend.

She lived in Texas, and her son had a circumcision performed by a doctor in the hospital; it didn't go properly - the kid nearly died from blood loss and his penis is permanently disfigured, despite corrective surgeries. Anyway, in the course of suing the shit out of the bastard, some investigation turned up the fact that the guy had been a doctor in California. He worked in an emergency room there. Among the more unbelievable things he did was this:

A patient came in with a gunshot wound. This doctor worked on him for a while, then pronounced him dead and shipped him off to the morgue. 2 1/2 hours later, someone in the morgue was processing the body and noticed something the doctor hadn't - the patient wasn't dead. Yet. Naturally, after 2 1/2 hours of lying in the morgue, slowly bleeding out, the guy died pretty soon after being discovered.

This incident and a few others resulted to him having his license to practice revoked in California. So he moved to Texas and began practicing there. I was disgusted when I heard about him, but not entirely surprised. Doctors protect other doctors, even if the other doctors are incompetent and stupid.

Posted by: phleabo on December 18, 2005 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure this is just what our Lawabiding Leader had in mind when he was talking about allowing gynecologists to "practice their love" without fear of lawsuits.

Posted by: Calling All Toasters on December 18, 2005 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

This doctor was asking his "customers" to bare more than costs.

The good State of Oregon, from whence Dr Domento graduated at Reed College, is no different than Washington. It is even difficult to get the Medical Board to take action against, not only Drs such as the one described, but those who have been hit repeatedly by very serious malpractice suits. It is tough to even be able to obtain information from the hospitals about the doctors. For example, Kaiser refused to release any information on the notorious Dr Patel, who had sued successfully for many malpractice cases. It was not until the government of Australia wanted him for murder that this case came to light. Oregon and Washington are equal in their lax oversight of physicians.
It even extends to contractors who rip off the public. All the "Boards" do is collect licensing fees. The conservative legislators in the rural red parts of both states, will not let legislation pass to provide remedies.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 18, 2005 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Blogger rule #1: Never start a story with "This story is just outrageous", even if the story is just outrageous.

Guess what? I rarely follow blogger rules.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister on December 18, 2005 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

guess what ,that makes two of us..

Posted by: Hemaworstje on December 18, 2005 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Guess what? I rarely follow blogger rules.


Sadly you do, far to often.

Posted by: ogmb on December 18, 2005 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Darn! Calling All Toasters beat me to the "practice their love" quote!

Posted by: MJ Memphis on December 18, 2005 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Got some first hand knowledge of Dr. Sheffy in Texas.

I broke my arm in the early 80's. My parent's took me to the local emergency room and Sheffy was the doctor that set my arm. He did not put me to sleep when he did it....when he put it back in place that was the most pain I have ever felt.

I heard about his "problems" through the 80's. In late 87, I was involved in a car accident where some verterbrae were broken. The neurosurgeon that operated and continues to treat me to this day was personally involved in getting Sheffy's license revoked. He testified against him many times in court. I had a lengthy conversation with him about this just a couple of months ago. All kinds of horror stories.

So, sometimes doctors do police themselves.

I was a patient of both Sheffy and the doctor that helped take him down. Does ths make me famous?

Posted by: Chris on December 18, 2005 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Sadly you do, far to often.

LOL. Okay.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister on December 18, 2005 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

This is another example of the perversion and prostitution of politics by Repukelipervs. They have, with their allies the doctors, been demonizing lawyers who attempt to help patients injured by doctors. Doctors are like any other profession - most are competent, but 5 % are total idiots. Doctors will not police themselves. So, it is time to start outing these incompetents.

We need internet sites for outing bad doctors. Yes, some will be injured. But, until we get doctors who become responsible, it's time for a posse of outraged citizens to string up a couple doctors.

I work in the health care system, but am not a physician.

Posted by: POed Lib on December 18, 2005 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

You don't understand. Doctors are mostly good at memorizing things, which makes them the smartest and most important members of our society, and their little mistakes and misbehaviors are far outweighed by the miracles they shower down upon the people,

Plus, practicing medicine is stressful. Plus, lawyers are nasty liars. Plus, they got into medical school, so there. Plus, all the nurses better kiss their asses.

Posted by: martyfrost on December 18, 2005 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Doctors do speak out against other doctors. Doctors are dsicplined. But, as happened to a colleague of mine, inappropriate touching is a very common complaint, often without merit. One woman had seven simultaneous complaints against seven different health care providers for inappropriate touching. An agency of any state needs to proceed very carefully when allegations are made: in my colleague's case, the allegation was dismissed as invalid after two years of research, during which his life became hell, and he lost his job. This has nothing to do with partisanship, and it disgusts me to read the posts on here that immediately reach toward politcal parties (and goals) as the target for why/when/who/how/what and where things went wrong. The doctor in question in this story has been found guilty. Jsutice, although grinding exceedingly slowly, has also ground him down well enough at this point. Perhaps the partisans among you would prefer a lynch mob?

Posted by: Chris on December 18, 2005 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

This is part of the "old boys' network" that refuses to admit that crimes against women occur.

Posted by: Mazurka on December 18, 2005 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

An agency of any state needs to proceed very carefully when allegations are made

No doubt. But one would assume proceeding carefully would include investigating complaints.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister on December 18, 2005 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

"This is part of the "old boys' network" that refuses to admit that crimes against women occur."

Right, and it's a good argument for why at least some of the people in charge of women's health should be women - unlike that creepy guy (what the hell's his name?) who wrote a book about 'The Biblical Approach of Feminine Maladies' or whatever the hell it was called.

Posted by: Garamond12 on December 18, 2005 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

As a physician, I can tell you that every State Board of Medicine is under-funded, under-manned and under-competent.

There are physicians who work for improvement and for policing the profession (I led a committee to do that for a number of years as part of the Medicare PRO program). Doctors will speak out when they encounter this stuff, and we need to do it more.

Chris, above, notes some of the problems. As you might imagine, a good lawyer (I'm not hacking lawyers here, just noting) can throw up a number of concerns about due process, etc., that can stall or slow an investigation/hearing into a doctor.

Posted by: Steve White on December 18, 2005 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

So what, Steve?

Posted by: Ol'Froth on December 18, 2005 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

thethirdpaul -

The "costs" I referred to, that the drs ask the patients to bear are were the costs of the doctors' own mistakes/crimes. These costs come in a variety of forms, some of which I spelled out in general terms.

The day that doctors are willing to police themselves, with demonstrable results...

Posted by: cdj on December 18, 2005 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Steve -

What state did this marvellous doctor-policing work you did take place in? I can easily look up the number of doctors disciplined in a given state in a given year.

Would you like that number to be publicized in connection with you groundbreaking work?

Posted by: cdj on December 18, 2005 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

I have to disagree with a previous commenter's blanket condemnation of Washington State. I can tell you that the Washington State Examining Board of Psychology goes hard after psychologists for much, much less than this. This isn't bitterness on my part, I've never even had a complaint, but I worked closely with the Board for four years and know its workings pretty well. For example, a psychologist from a Seattle suburb was censured for pressuring a client to forgo an abortion. Psychologists found guilty of sexual misconduct get their licenses suspended, and sometimes revoked, quite regularly. This case does fit with my impression that the state Medical Board is much less aggressive, however. Momah has certainly been in the news for his sexual misconduct for years around here, and it's baffling why he was allowed to practice for so long. The Medical Board should definitely be investigated for this.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen, RN,PhD on December 18, 2005 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK


Hager, I think, or maybe Hagar -- as in Hagar the Horrible.

Samuel is his first name? In any case, he's in the Bush admin in some capacity. Gynecologist. And a total born-again who lets every aspect of his work be colored by so-called biblical teaching.

You should also read about his family life. His ex-wife has some horror stories about marital rape you wouldn't believe involving forced anal sex.

I wish I could remember the sources for this stuff ... it was all duly linked and discussed on BlogForAmerica last year ...


Posted by: rmck1 on December 18, 2005 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK


Fully understood your use of bearing the costs. I was being sarcastic about the pig of a doctor who wanted his patients to be bare as well.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 18, 2005 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Doctors do speak out against other doctors. Doctors are dsicplined. But, as happened to a colleague of mine, inappropriate touching is a very common complaint, often without merit.

and yet there is a very simple solution here - physical exam with nurse present.

When my daughter of 16 went to see my pediatrician, he felt her chest. Was this inappropriate? Not at all. I was present, and observed the manner in which he did the exam, his general attitude (detached, objective) and his facial expression. Had I not been present, things might have been different, and my attitude might have been different.

This illustrates, yet again, the arrogance and blindness of physicians. Do the exam with a third party, if you are a male physician and she is a female patient. It's just common sense, but most physicians are too arrogant to see that. They believe, oddly, that their superior status protects them from sensible precautions. This is not true.

Posted by: POed Lib on December 18, 2005 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

POed Lib, most doctors I know, including myself, always have a nurse in the room when performning pelvic exams. You're right, it's just common sense in the current legal climate. Like most things we do to prevent getting sued, it is generally unhelpful to patient care and wait times.

Posted by: Bad Shift on December 18, 2005 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

3rdpaul -

My bad! :)

Posted by: cdj on December 19, 2005 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

1)All evidence cited seems to be somwhat one-sided
2)I'd say the Gynecologists are more vulnerable to false accusation than others
3) Evidence is for financial fraud then switches to a sex accusation.
4) Nothing linked says he took examinations alone
5) Accusation say other strange things like a twin brother who's not a doctor impersonating him

Person with brain would research further before piling on...but this is a liberal site.

Natural reaction to reading a histrionic article is to blame someone without thinking.

Posted by: McAristotle on December 19, 2005 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

I was working in the operating room, as a circulating nurse, of a county run hospital in a relatively poor community in Polk County Florida. We did many c-sections there, as most of the maternity patients had received no prenatal care. One time, after an emergency C-section the scrub tech approached me with a question: Why does this Dr. sometimes put kelly clamps on the fallopian tubes while repairing the uterus? I was stunned as the only possible purpose was to cause adhesions and thus sterility. I spoke with her and several of the other OR techs about it and discovered it was a frequent occurrence and was happening exclusively with African and Hispanic American women who had refused to consent to a tubal ligation. Even more sadly, I discovered from the nurses who had been there for years that this was only the latest in a succession of MDs who had engaged in this practice. The issue had never, to anyones recollection, come to the attention of the hospital administration. I took it there several times before I was able to get action. The MD who was doing this was Chief of his department. He was removed from his position and allowed into surgery only with another physician present assistant thereafter. In retrospect, not nearly the enough punishment to match the crime. A good deal of shunning and threats took place after that, as you may imagine, and I only worked there a few more months. As I became more aware over years I've regretted not having made it a public issue. I wonder too, how often this sort of thing happens still.

I found out later from a medical anthropologist out in Denver that this practice was common and under some circumstances even legal in some states into the seventies. Hed been researching eugenics in the States and had compiled an impressive bibliography.

Posted by: Tresca's Ghost on December 19, 2005 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

Ok this comment board has clearly become a farce when it comes to medical issues in general. First off, considering how many false accusations were made against Ob/Gyns back during the hysteria of the early 90's, one would think ppl on this board who are old enough to remember would hesitate before jumping to conclusions. Second, the logical connection between a tort based malpractice system that does nothing except worsen health care in the country (e.g. by massively distorting resources, by discouraging entry into fields like neurosurgery and obstretrics along with making it stupid for doctors to take tricky cases and thus costing lives, etc.) and individual misconduct by a doctor is tenuous at best. After all, malpractice rates itself seem to be independent of any ability to sue (see NZ or Sweden). Finally, anecdotes of bad medical care are also idiotic as they add no real insight into either this doctor's case or the general system of policing medical care (refer to previous poster on due process, etc.)...

Furthermore on a less related note, the person who posted the circumcision story should encourage his friends and social circle that the initial idiotic decision was made by the parent. A given percentage (thankfully, small) of circumcisions are going to end badly no matter who does them and the risk-benefit calculation is almost always in favor of not taking the chance of scarring and blood loss (exceptions being for example if you are in subsaharan africa or the kid has had UTI's before, etc.)...

Posted by: v on December 19, 2005 at 1:57 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Brenda (post #2). I see no reason to invoke anything beyond the incompetence of the Washington state Medical Quality Assurance commission. A competent medical board would have initiated an investigation and temporarily suspended his license right away.
John Thullen, as you know, Washington State has an abundance of democrats, especially in the Puget sound region. Besides, if you're a law-and-order republican, what could be worse than not nailing an OB-GYN who is a sexual predator and is from Nigeria?
Tresca, I've heard or read many weird stories about OB-GYN's and neurosurgeons. I wonder if that contributes to them getting sued alot.

Posted by: gyp on December 19, 2005 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

When I was younger, I worked in the lab at a hospital where one of the surgeons did many gastric bypass operations when it was still a very new operation. His patients often died because he overtreated them. We Med Techs in the lab watched as they went downhill. We took our concerns to the pathologists we worked for. The hospital made this doctor the Chief of Staff, so he would have less time to do operations. Some punishment, huh?

Posted by: Stitchwitch8 on December 19, 2005 at 6:34 AM | PERMALINK

A gynecologist has been convicted of two counts of rape and two counts of indecent liberties, and faces up to 23 years in prison, after he (and possibly his twin) abused what may be hundreds of women.

What I can't get over is the "and possibly his twin" part. One, or possibly two, guys abused a lot of women, and, no, we're not actually charging the second one, just want you to know that he might have impersonated his brother."

Shakespeare's Sister, you really don't suppose that the fact that these brothers are Nigerian has anything at all to do with the lack of coverage? Because if I had to guess, that'd be it.

Posted by: waterfowl on December 19, 2005 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK



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