Courier Times
Expert testifies that Doylestown psychiatrist used proper procedure
By Hayden Mitman
October 10, 2014

Psychiatrist Carla Rodgers (circa 2003)

Psychiatrist Carla Rodgers (circa 2003)

A medical expert called to defend a Doylestown psychiatrist charged with fondling eight female patients said she believed the doctor had acted properly when he checked the women’s heart rate and blood pressure.

Testifying Thursday in Bucks County Court, Dr. Carla Rodgers said a psychiatrist regularly monitors vital signs, especially if the patient is medicated.

“If I were prescribing a drug that could increase your blood pressure, I’d probably want to do a baseline blood pressure on you,” Rodgers, a psychiatrist from Bala Cynwyd, told defense attorney Louis Busico, after reviewing the notes of Dr. Basem Shlewiet, who’s charged with indecent assault.

Depending on the type of medication prescribed, a psychiatrist may need to check a patient’s blood pressure and heart rate, Rodgers said.

And, she told jurors, while performing a detailed check of the heart, the doctor would need to examine four points on the chest to ensure a good reading.

One of the four points, she explained to Bucks County prosecutor Lindsay Vaughan, is just below a patient’s right breast, which means a doctor could adjust — or ask the patient to lift — the breast in order for the doctor to get a reading. A patient’s comfort level and breast size would be considered when checking the heart rate, Rodgers testified.

Shlewiet, she said, “should be able to physically examine his patients.”

The 42-year-old psychiatrist is charged with multiple counts of unlawful contact with a minor, corruption of minors and indecent assault. County authorities charged him after several of his patients told police he fondled them under the guise of testing their blood pressure and heart rate.

Vaughan, referencing prior testimony from some of the women, asked Rodgers if a psychiatrist should ever touch a female patient’s nipples or vagina during an examination. Rodgers answered such contact would never need to happen.

Additionally, Rodgers told the prosecutor there should be a third person in the examination room, especially if the doctor and patient are of the opposite sex.

“It’s not just for their protection,” but the doctor’s protection, Rodgers said in response to Vaughan’s question about professional protocol.

Each woman who accused Shlewiet of making inappropriate contact had been alone with him during their office visit.

Also Thursday, two women — the last of the eight former patients testifying — echoed the accusations made by the other women against Shlewiet.

The first woman, who’s 24, told the jury that Shlewiet fondled her breast while he was claiming to check her heart rate and blood pressure.

Busico, however, reminded the woman on cross-examination that after her visit she emailed the doctor a thank you for the appointment.

The second, who’s 22, said she was seeing Shlewiet to help her overcome a heroin addiction, and believed the doctor had groped her during two separate visits.

She said she told her mother about what she thought the doctor had done immediately after the sessions, but her mother was so focused on her recovery that the two put the incidents aside until they learned about Shlewiet’s arrest in January of this year.

“He touched my breast like he was examining it or something,” said the woman. “It was like I was going to the gynecologist’s office for a breast exam.”

Also, at the end of the day Thursday, several members of Shlewiet’s church addressed the jury to testify to his good character and reputation.

More testimony is expected Friday in Bucks County Court in Doylestown.

Carla Rodgers