The Boston Globe
July 24, 1997, Thursday, City Edition
Activists angered over ad for study;
Psychiatrist is accused of abuse
BYLINE: By Dolores Kong, Globe Staff
SECTION: METRO/REGION; Pg. B1
LENGTH: 555 words
A McLean Hospital psychiatrist who is under state medical board investigation for alleged sexual misconduct with a patient is recruiting 18-to-22-year-olds who were sexually abused as children for a study, a revelation that prompted outrage yesterday from victims’ advocates.
Dr. Martin H. Teicher, well known for his work with seasonal affective disorder and the antidepressant drug Prozac, was listed as the contact in an advertisement in yesterday’s Globe recruiting volunteers for the study of the long-term effects of abuse.
“This is amazing to me, this ad,” said Phyllis Pagano, a founder of Therapy Exploitation Link Line (TELL), a Newton-based support and advocacy group, who saw the ad as she was having her morning cup of coffee. “I’m in shock.”
But Roberta Shaw, McLean’s director of public affairs, said the allegations of sexual abuse by Teicher’s former patient were investigated by the medical board once and dismissed. The board reopened its investigation after new evidence surfaced, but Shaw said, “We believe there will be a favorable ruling.”
“The fact is he does a lot of very important work and it certainly is unfair to keep him from doing work that can benefit others,” said Shaw, adding that Teicher was on sabbatical until October and was not reachable. She said the research on the effects of abuse is being done by his staff.
In 1994, Teicher settled for a reported $ 500,000 a malpractice lawsuit brought by the woman, who alleged he sexually abused her while she was his patient. The settlement was reached on the day jury selection was to begin. An out-of-court settlement is not an admission of guilt.
The state Board of Registration in Medicine reopened its investigation into the allegation after the settlement and after a Globe Spotlight report highlighted sexual abuse charges against psychiatrists.
The medical board held an extensive hearing on the allegations beginning last year. The board is awaiting action by an administrative law judge before making its decision.
Andrew Meyer, the attorney who represented the woman both in the lawsuit and the board hearing, said, “If in fact the allegations that my client made are true – and they appear to be from all the evidence we had, including love letters, gifts and jewelry – I think there’s reason to be concerned about his contact with any female patients.”
McLean’s Shaw disagreed. “This patient is the only patient who has ever lodged a complaint against Dr. Teicher – ever.”
And as to the research into long-term effects of abuse, “His part of the study is looking at the results,” Shaw said. “He has nothing to do with the patients.”
She pointed to beneficial results from Teicher’s research already, including a recent finding that abused children with post-traumatic stress disorder are more hyperactive during the day and experience more sleep disturbances at night than normal or depressed children. Such a finding could help differentiate between abuse, depression, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Shaw said.
But TELL’s Pagano was not satisfied. “The amount of denial within this profession is really colossal,” she said. “They make a statement about how they’re so concerned about this issue, and when you put a face on it, and it’s somebody they know, they back off and defend the person.”