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WA Doctor Fit Only for Prisoners

In the July, 1995, issue of PLN we reported the disciplinary charges filed against Dr. James McGuire, the psychologist at the McNeil Island Corrections Center (MICC) in WA. While practicing as a psychiatrist in Alaska McGuire entered into a sexual relationship with one of his patients, Karma VanGelder, an Alaska state trooper suffering from multiple personality syndrome. The sexual relationship, which violated ethical and professional standards, lasted some 5 and a half years. As a result, McGuire lost his license to practice psychiatry in Alaska and moved to Washington where he was promptly hired by the DOC to work at MICC. The DOC acknowledged that it was aware of McGuire's record when he applied for the job but hired him anyway.

McGuire's duties at MICC include mental health unit counseling, including for prisoners with sex offenses, prescribing medication, diagnostic evaluations, referrals, and crisis intervention. In an interview with The Stranger, a Seattle alternative weekly, VanGelder stated that McGuire had submitted letters to Alaska officials that allowed her to keep her job despite the fact that both were suicidal at the time. VanGelder sued McGuire and settled the suit for $1.39 million and negotiated an agreement which limited McGuire's practice of psychiatry: he has to be in therapy himself and cannot treat women or children.

Because the loss of a medical license in one state doesn't affect the license in another, McGuire was able to practice psychiatry in Washington. When The Stranger asked the DOC why they hired McGuire, Patricia Robinson-Martin, an assistant to DOC boss Chase Riveland, stated that the DOC was well aware of the Alaska incident but McGuire was the only applicant for the position. She noted "It is difficult to attract psychiatrists to work in prisons."

On June 2, 1995, the Medical Quality Assurance Commission held a hearing to determine whether McGuire's license should be suspended. In an ironic situation, the Department of Health was the party seeking revocation of McGuire's license and was represented by the attorney general's office; while McGuire is working for another state agency and both parties appeared before yet another state agency to consider the matter. Nothing like keeping it in the family. On July 10, 1995, the Commission issued its report, which PLN has obtained.

In its findings of fact, conclusions of law and final order, the commission made interesting comments. Among them Dr. McGuire is taking 20 milligrams of Prozac a day to treat his own mental illness and has to attend sex offender therapy sessions once a week with his therapist in Portland, Oregon. He and his wife of 17 years, Janice McCrimmon, have also undergone marriage therapy. McGuire's therapist, Dr. McGovern, recommended that McGuire be allowed to treat adult males as he was a low risk of having sex with adult men.

The Commission concluded that McGuire had "clearly committed unprofessional conduct by violating RCW 18.130.180" and had lowered the public perception of all medical professionals. The commission held "The Respondent, however, should neither be allowed to provide individual psychotherapy to any male inmates nor to provide psychotherapy to patients in a private practice setting. The Respondent's limited practice of treating only the male inmates at the Corrections Center does contribute to the public welfare and does not represent a danger to the public." The commission held that revoking McGuire's license would be a "purely punitive act."

In its final order the commission indefinitely suspended McGuire's authorization to practice as a physician and surgeon but then stayed the suspension as long as McGuire complies with the commission's terms and conditions. Under the order McGuire can only treat male prisoners at MICC and can only practice psychopharmacology and diagnostic psychiatry; he is forbidden to give individual or group therapy. He is to be supervised by a Dr. Gage who will submit quarterly reports to the commission, and must continue his sex offender therapy. McGuire was fined $1,000 and prohibited from using alcohol or mood altering drugs as long as he is in therapy. In essence, the commission held that McGuire is fit only to treat prisoners.

The Medical Quality Assurance Commission can be contacted at: Department of Health, P.O. Box 47866, Olympia, WA 98504-7866. Considering that Washington prisoners must pay $3 each time they see Dr. McGuire this indicates the quality of care they are receiving. Prisoners with complaints about DOC health care providers can also complain to the commission. Anyone desiring a copy of the commission's report can obtain one from the commission, ask for In Re McGuire, OPS No. 94-10-19-442-MD.

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Related legal case

In Re McGuire