The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York)
By James T. Mulder
April 2, 2008

The state has revoked the medical license of a Fayetteville psychiatrist accused of carrying on a long-term sexual relationship with a female patient he was treating for depression.

A hearing committee of the state Board for Professional Medical Conduct said Dr. Stephen M. Shapiro, 67, of 900 Fayetteville-Manlius Road, embarked on a seven-year relationship with the woman after she was referred to him in 1998 by her husband, also one of Shapiro’s patients.

“He exploited her feelings and vulnerabilities for his own gratification,” the hearing committee said in documents outlining the case against Shapiro.

James Lantier, Shapiro’s lawyer, said the doctor denies the charges and will appeal the decision.

“We think there was testimony about the patient’s psychiatric condition that really shed very serious doubt on whether her account was accurate,” Lantier said.

License revocation is the most serious punishment the board can impose on a doctor for misconduct. The board took 303 disciplinary actions statewide in 2007, 43 of them license revocations.

State law prohibits sexual contact between a psychiatrist and a patient.

The committee found Shapiro guilty of that, gross negligence, negligence on more than one occasion, engaging in conduct which evidences moral unfitness and failing to maintain accurate patient records.

Shapiro denied the allegations during a hearing, but the committee accused him of lying under oath.

Here is the hearing committee’s version of what happened:

Shapiro began treating the woman’s husband for depression in 1996. The man believed his wife would benefit from seeing Shapiro because she also had a history of depression. The psychiatrist saw the couple in joint sessions at his home office, then he began treating them separately.

The woman became infatuated with Shapiro and gave him candy around Valentine’s Day of 1998. Such an attraction, known as “transference,” is common among patients receiving psychiatric care, but Shapiro did not properly manage the situation, according to the hearing committee.

The sexual relationship began shortly after that, taking place in the doctor’s office, his home, hotels and other locations, according to the committee. The doctor stopped charging the woman for treatment after the relationship began. The woman broke off the relationship in June 2005.

During the hearing, a forensic psychiatrist testifying on Shapiro’s behalf said the woman’s claims probably were a fantasy.

In her testimony, however, the woman provided detailed descriptions about the doctor’s home and his body — specifically the location of his surgical scars. Shapiro conceded those details were accurate, but testified he had told the woman about his scars.

Shapiro testified he could not have engaged in the affair because he was physically unable to have sexual relations. He said his primary care doctor prescribed the male impotence drug Viagra for him three times during 2001 and 2002, but the drug did not work. Shapiro’s doctor, however, denied ever prescribing that drug.

Stephen Shapiro