Hartford Courant (Connecticut)
By Lynne Tuohy
March 8, 1994

Psychiatrist Donald Pet

Psychiatrist Donald Pet

The appeal of Dr. Donald Pet, whose medical license was suspended in 1989 after he allegedly had sexual contact with four patients, became even more complicated and protracted Monday, when the state Supreme Court sent his case back to the trial court level for yet another hearing.

The high court’s ruling represents a Pyrrhic victory for the Manchester psychiatrist.

On one hand, the court ruled that Pet should have been allowed to present evidence of procedural irregularities by the state Medical Examining Board, which in 1989 suspended Pet’s license to practice for five years.

Specifically, Pet claims that only one of the seven members who voted on his sanction had either attended or read the entire record of the 20 suspension hearings held over a three-year period. Chief Justice Ellen A. Peters described Pet’s allegations as “particularly grave” and said the board’s actions may have undermined the fairness of the proceedings.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court reversed the 1992 ruling by Superior Court Judge John P. Maloney, who had ordered Pet’s license reinstated. Maloney ruled that Pet’s constitutional rights were violated when the Medical Examining Board restricted his cross-examination of the state’s only expert witness during the suspension hearings.

The Supreme Court ruled that the restrictions, which included a time limit on Pet’s cross-examination, came “dangerously close” to violating the law on administrative procedures, but did not unfairly prejudice Pet. The high court, in its 4-1 ruling, said that Pet could have subpoenaed the expert, Dr. Kenneth Selig, if he wanted to ask further questions. The state appealed Maloney’s ruling.

Peters said the one-hour time limit set by then board Chairman Harvey Mandell was inappropriate, though Maloney had termed it punitive and unlawful.

Pet, who has represented himself throughout the myriad administrative and legal proceedings, will now return to Superior Court to again argue his claims of procedural irregularities.

“It’s disappointing to have to go through this again,” Pet said Monday. “This has been going on since 1985 when the Medical Examining Board first lodged its charges against Pet and we still don’t have a decision.”

Pet’s suspension hearings spanned three years in part because he appealed an evidentiary ruling at the outset of the hearings in 1986.

That appeal took about 18 months to resolve.

Pet said he has no idea what the status of his license is, adding that he has made no efforts to renew it.Lawyers at the state attorney general’s office, which represents the Medical Examining Board, could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Justice Robert I. Berdon dissented from the high court’s ruling, saying Pet’s case should be sent back to the Medical Examining Board for a new hearing because of all the due process violations Pet has suffered.

Berdon said it was especially significant that six of the seven board members who ultimately suspended Pet’s license did not attend the hearings in his case, “because four of the most serious charges against Dr. Pet were wholly dependent on the personal credibility of the complaining witnesses.” Berdon was referring to the four female patients who testified that Pet had sexual contact of varying degrees with them while they were in his care.

The majority of the justices, in the 33-page ruling, said there was sufficient evidence for the Medical Examining Board to rule that Pet had inappropriate sexual contact with the four patients and misprescribed medication with potentially lethal results.

The Supreme Court has sent Pet’s case back to the trial court with instructions to consider additional evidence of procedural irregularities, possibly including professional tape recordings Pet had made of the board’s final hearings.

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Donald Pet