St. Petersburg Times
Doctor’s license revoked
By Carol Gentry
August 8, 1992
The Florida Board of Medicine did something Friday that it has never done before: It listened to patients.
Two women who pressed charges against a psychiatrist for sexual abuse got a chance to speak after the board revoked the doctor’s license.
They told the board no complainant should have to endure what they’ve been through.
“This system batters the one who comes forward to report sexual abuse,” said Linda Hatch of St. Louis.
Hatch, 45, said she spent more than $ 20,000 of her own money to prosecute Dr. Melvin Wise and was never reimbursed a dime. Part of the money was spent on traveling to and from Florida to testify during the past seven years, and the rest was for her attorney, hired to help fend off attacks on her character.
In hearings, she was portrayed as a whore and a lunatic. She was grilled, patronized and ridiculed.
“What I encountered (as a witness) has been just as brutal, punishing, and exhausting as all of the sexual abuse that I have ever endured,” she said.
Hatch, co-owner of a construction company, was joined by Kalie Malcolmson, a 28-year-old social worker at Miami Children’s Hospital. Both women gave permission for their names to be published.
Malcolmson told the board Florida needs to form a task force to ease the plight of sexual abuse victims who are getting chewed up by the system. While seven women brought complaints against Dr. Melvin Wise, two refused to testify after seeing the others skewered by Wise’s attorneys.
Only Malcolmson’s case survived the legal process. It was the basis for the board’s vote Friday to revoke Wise’s license.
Wise, who practiced child and adolescent psychiatry in Miami, did not appear at the hearing. His attorney, Mark Lang, said Wise is living in Orlando but not working.
He can’t earn a living because of bad publicity, Lang said. He vowed to appeal.
“Dr. Wise has steadfastly maintained his innocence,” Lang said. “All these women were severely disturbed.”
But the women said that if anything is out of kilter, it’s the legal system.
Hatch first reported Wise in 1985 to the South Florida Psychiatric Society, but her testimony was not believed.
Then the Department of Professional Regulation, which investigates and prosecutes cases against doctors, filed a complaint against Wise in June 1988 based on accusations from Hatch and four others.
After reviewing testimony, State Hearing Officer William R. Dorsey Jr. said he didn’t believe any of the women. He recommended the Board of Medicine dismiss the charges.
After initially refusing, the board capitulated. In February 1990, the charges were dropped.
But DPR continued the struggle. The First District Court of Appeal upheld DPR’s argument that a lot of irrelevant and prejudicial information had been introduced about the women, and in February 1991 ordered the case sent back to Dorsey.
No one thought the hearing officer would change his decision. But in June of this year he did, at least in the case of Malcolmson.
This left the case in an odd posture, with five women saying the same thing and only one of them believed. But it was enough to make the Board of Medicine act.
At Friday’s hearing, the doctor’s attorney insisted the hearing officer had “absolutely no authority or basis to change his decision.” His action was unjust and “intellectually dishonest,” Lang said.
He called it double jeopardy.
But Li Nelson, appellate attorney for DPR, said there’s no such concept in administrative hearings. The board is on solid ground and will prevail on appeal, she predicted.
Two hours after the Wise case concluded, the board agreed to break tradition and hear from two of the patients.
Dr. James Burt, who chaired the meeting, said their remarks had to be delayed for fear that any irregularities in procedure would cause the case to be thrown out.
With her husband and three children looking on, Hatch told the board Florida’s method of bringing bad doctors to justice is too cumbersome.
“We, the victims, cannot be expected to remain involved with a system that takes years to complete,” she said. “Our wounds stay open throughout this process, just when we are badly needing them to close and to heal. We need to move on with our lives.”
Victims need something else, too, she said: respect.
“Throughout history those of us who report sexual abuse have been treated as psychotic, labeled hysteric, portrayed as promiscuous and dismissed as expendable. This must stop.”
Hatch said when she watched the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the Supreme Court a few months ago, she felt a jolt of kinship with his accuser.
“Anita Hill has said that the thing that was most difficult for her in all of that brutal treatment . . .was that her 80-year-old parents had to witness their own daughter be vilified,” Hatch said. “Without a doubt, the most difficult part of all of this for me has been that these children have had to witness how their mother has been treated.”
She added, “I am here to demand changes on behalf of these children, on behalf of their future world.”