A Memphis psychiatrist has been forced to close her office for two months and potentially lose her medical license for good after it was discovered she spanked at least 10 patients with whips and riding crops and sometimes compared them to mules.
Psychiatrist spanked patients with whips, riding crops, and called them ‘mules,’ officials say
By Brett Kelman
June 15, 2018
Dr. Valerie Louise Augustus, who has led Christian Psychiatrist Services for 17 years, was found to have used a riding crop – a thin whip normally used to strike horses – on the buttocks of a patient in 2015, according to Tennessee medical discipline documents that were made public on Friday.
The patient, who had a history of physical abuse, was suffering from depression and struggling with suicidal thoughts, documents state.
An investigation by state authorities also found that Augustus had “made contact with other mental health patients with a riding crop, whip or other object.” The documents also state that Augustus kept both a riding crop and a whip “displayed in her office” and “compared her patients to mules.”
The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners suspended Augustus license after determining there was “no evidence” in psychiatrist literature for using whips or riding crops as an effective part of treatment. The board suspended her medical license for no less than 60 days, starting in June. To get her license back, Augustus will be required to take a two-day class on “medical ethics, boundaries and professionalism” and be cleared by the Vanderbilt Comprehensive Assessment Program, which examines professionals who are having emotional or behavioral issues in the workplace.
If the program clears Augustus, she can then petition the board to get her license back. If it is restored, she will start a probationary term of 3 years.
Augustus was also fined $10,000 – $1,000 for each patient she struck – according to board documents.
Augustus could not immediately be reached for comment. Calls to her clinic were unanswered, and a voicemail said Augustus was unavailable and clinic would be closed for June and July. The clinic’s website said Augustus was on “personal leave.”
Augustus’ clinic has previously been named the top mental health practice in the Memphis area by The Commercial Appeal, a USA TODAY Network newspaper.
Augustus’ discipline was revealed through a monthly announcement by the Tennessee Department of Health, which maintains public records on licenses for doctors, nurses, chiropractors, massage therapists and other health care professionals throughout the state. More than 100 disciplinary actions were included in the latest monthly report.
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