Hartford Courant (Connecticut)
July 14, 1993, A Edition
Board hears case on misconduct
BYLINE: FRANK SPENCER-MOLLOY; Courant Medical Writer
SECTION: A; Pg. a14
LENGTH: 438 words
The Connecticut Medical Examining Board heard a case Tuesday against a Westport psychiatrist accused of engaging in sexual relations with a patient.
Harvey R. Wasserman faces loss of his medical license on charges that he encouraged a patient to engage in sexual acts with him and that he sought to portray his behavior as a normal part of therapy during weekly sessions from 1981 to 1985.
Although the patient testified that all the acts happened with her consent, professional organizations and disciplinary boards hold that consent is not relevant in any question of potential sexual contact between a therapist and a patient.
Eight states, this year including Connecticut, have criminalized such acts, making them tantamount to sexual assault.
The medical disciplinary charges were brought against Wasserman by the state Department of Public Health and Addiction Services on the basis of testimony provided by the patient, a Brookfield woman.
Wasserman, who was described as having recently been in Belgium, did not show up for the hearing, and his whereabouts were unknown. He has not yet renewed his medical license, which lapsed at the end of April. The three-member panel proceeded with the charges against him after determining the state had made appropriate attempts to notify him of the hearing.
The Courant could not reach Wasserman.
The woman, the sole witness against Wasserman, testified that she had first gone to Wasserman for therapy because she was having problems forming relationships with men.
On her first visit, she said, Wasserman instructed her to disrobe to her underwear, a demand she heeded on that occasion and during subsequent office visits over 3 1/2 years.
That escalated to a pattern of their lying together on an office couch, her “rubbing lotion on his back” and, later, carrying out his requests that she perform fellatio on him.
She said she refused his demands for intercourse, and, while “he didn’t force me … he told me if I got married, he wanted to be the person to first prepare me for that.”
“Did it not occur to you this was not normal?” hearing officer Sarah McGirr asked Wasserman’s accuser. The woman replied that Wasserman explicitly told her his behavior was a part of the therapy and designed to ameliorate her problems of intimacy with men.
“I was not sexually attracted to him, but I trusted him. … I felt he loved me as a father.”
The woman said she ended therapy in 1985, but continued an intermittent social relationship for several years afterward, including a wildnerness trip with the psychiatrist’s colleagues and his wife.