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Deviant Doctors Dumped on Prisoners

How does a psychiatrist come by the "qualifications" required to work in a state prison? Not all prison doctors have questionable pedigrees, but the case of Dr. Valentino Andres is all too common.

According to a California prisoner and PLN subscriber, Dr. Andres is the Chief Psychiatrist of the infamous northern California supermax dungeon, Pelican Bay State Prison. He is also, in the words of this subscriber, "a convicted serial sexual predator." Pretty strong words. But PLN has obtained court documents that provide ample evidence to back them.

In 1992 Andres, who until then had operated a solo psychiatric practice, had his medical license suspended by the state medical board. This action was taken after Andres was convicted in Sutter County (CA) Municipal Court of "sexual exploitation by a psychotherapist."

Court records reveal that Andres indeed used his medical practice to prey upon patients (who are referred by initials only): Patient D.C. said that Andres had her "remove her clothing from the waist up so that [he] could check her heart rate."

Andres similarly violated patient H.O. by having her "remove her clothing so that [he] could check her heart rate, and by fondling [her] nipples under her bra."

K.P. testified that Andres instructed her to "disrobe so that he could check her heart rate and blood pressure... gave K.P. pelvic and vaginal exams and fondled her breasts... and would give K.P. injections of medication and would then engage [her] in acts of sexual intercourse." [presumably while unconscious, which would more accurately be described as "rape."]

Several other patients described essentially the same type of "therapy" whereby Andres had them disrobe and then would conduct breast and pelvic exams, and "sexual acts [which] included sexual intercourse, oral copulation and sodomy."

On two previous occasions Andres was tried on criminal charges of sexual misconduct, with both trials resulting in hung juries. He was convicted, though, after police had one patient wear a hidden recording device to several of these "therapy" sessions.

In 1992, the state medical board determined that Andres's "conduct with the various complaining witnesses demonstrates that the violations are part of a pervasive pattern going back more than 15 years." The board then suspended his medical license.

Three years later, in November 1995, the board permanently revoked Andres's medical license. However, under the terms of a stipulated settlement, the revocation was stayed and the suspension lifted in December 1995, provided that Andres "enroll in a course in Ethics... [and] undergo a psychiatric evaluation." The order further stipulated that Andres be prohibited from engaging in a solo practice, not be allowed to practice medicine at all until found to be "mentally fit to practice safely" and prohibited from examining or treating female patients without a third party present."

As previously reported in PLN , the California prison mental health system has been repeatedly found to be unconstitutionally deficient. Underfunding and staffing are endemic problems. Doctors like Valentino Andres are the answer.

Another case in point is Dr. Stanley Dratler, currently employed by the Florida DOC. In 1986 Dratler had his license suspended for three years for "exercising influence within a patient-physician relationship for purposes of engaging a patient in sexual activity."

Court documents obtained by PLN reveal that Dratler engaged in a lengthy pattern of sordid and bizarre victimization of patients of his Dade County gynecological practice.

One patient testified that after complaining of back pain, Dratler conducted a complete pelvic exam and "told [her] she needed to know how to masturbate and not rely solely on her husband. During this examination, conducted in an examining room containing only [the patient] and Respondent [Dratler], Respondent masturbated [the patient] and had her masturbate herself. When [she] asked about her back, [Dratler] told her there was nothing wrong with her back."

Another patient, this one only 16 years old, testified that when she visited Dratler complaining of a vaginal rash, he questioned her at great length about her sexual history. She admitted that she had been sexually active since age 12 but had never experienced orgasm. Dratler then "performed what he described as a psycho-sexual examination on [the 16-year-old patient] during which he massaged her breasts; stimulated areas outside the vagina with a cotton swab, and inserted fingers in [her] vagina." This patient testified that during three subsequent office visits Dratler "fondled her breasts while masturbating her."

Another patient described being subjected to a "psycho-sexual examination," even though she had come to Dratler's office only for a pap smear. She said that Dratler "started to masturbate her and told her she needed to have more orgasms."

Dratler's former secretary and medical assistant, Patricia Cherry, testified that he asked her "if she would teach some of his patients to masturbate themselves. Cherry was told by [Dratler] that he was conducting a survey on human sexuality and each patient would be a part of that survey." She also testified about an incident when Dratler administered Sodium Pentothal intravenously to a female patient while the patient was "undressed from the waist down. After the [Sodium Pentothal] IV started, the patient became unconscious on two occasions. During one period while the patient was awake, [Dratler] asked the patient what she thought about oral sex. During one period when the patient was unconscious [Dratler] asked Cherry if she would sexually stimulate the patient. Cherry said no."

The Florida state medical board cited a total of 27 counts of sexual misconduct involving six patients plus the employee when recommending that his medical license be suspended.

Dr. David Thomas, the man in charge of Florida's prison doctors, told the St. Petersburg Times that the 51-year-old Dratler's "problem with women" was easily solved; since joining the department, Dratler has worked only at prisons for men.

The Florida Board of Medicine again disciplined Dratler in 1994, while he wasemployed by the FDOC, this time for violating a condition of his medical license that required he be supervised at all times by another physician. Dratler, who also has a medical malpractice claims history, unsuccessfully appealed the decision and was put on probation for five years -- and continued working for the Florida DOC.

Florida's state prison system, like California and most states, suffers from chronic shortages of both funding and staff. And doctors like Dratler who have faced state medical board discipline increasingly fit the bill -- especially considering that most hospitals are reluctant to expose themselves to lawsuits stemming from hiring doctors with tainted pasts. These same doctors present little liability risk to state prison systems because prisoners rarely sue under medical malpractice statutes. And the tainted doctors come cheap, typically earning $70,000 to $85,000 a year -compared with the $120,000 the average doctor makes right out of medical school.

According to Dale Austin, deputy executive vice president of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States, less than half of 1 percent of the nation's doctors were disciplined in the last year. Fully 11 percent of doctors working for the Florida DOC have disciplinary records.

Sources: Reader Mail, Court Documents, St. Petersburg Times

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