A Lake Worth family doctor accused of sadistic “punishment therapy” that involved handcuffs, blindfolds, whips and other implements of torture apologized repeatedly to the Board of Osteopathic Medicine, which met in Tampa on Friday. But that was not enough to persuade board members that Dr. David Simon could safely continue to practice.
The board rejected a settlement that the state Department of Health had negotiated with Simon's attorney. It included a reprimand, $10,000 fine and two years' probation.
The board then voted to "counter-offer" with revocation -- the only action it could take in this type of hearing. The vote amounts to marching orders to the state DOH: Don't settle the case, go after his license.
Only one board member voted against the motion to seek revocation. Dr. Anna Hayden said the board usually allows doctors who have committed sexual misconduct to continue practicing on probation, with a monitor. She said she thought the board should be "consistent."
But other board members rejected the notion that this was an ordinary case.
"If there was ever a time that this board would revoke a license for sexual misconduct, this is it," said Dr. Ronald Burns, board chairman. "We cannot have an osteopathic physician behaving like this."
Simon's attorney, David Spicer, said his client will reject the offer and demand a formal evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge. Spicer said he will prove that the patient exaggerated.
"You'll find out this is a fantasy," Spicer predicted. "She's spinning all these tales."
While that doesn't make it okay that Simon had an affair with a patient, Spicer said, "It wasn't torture. It was adventurous sex between two adults."
Spicer said Dr. Simon was prominent in the community, where he has practiced for 28 years. He had no prior discipline on his license.
Simon denied that he tortured the patient, identified only by her initials, CK. But he conceded that what he did was "inappropriate," that it "crossed a boundary."
The case ruined his reputation and career, he said. "I can't excuse it. ... I'm embarrassed for myself, and it has devastated my wife."
Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine -- called D.O.s -- are akin to medical doctors, who are called M.D.s. Their training is similar, but osteopaths place more emphasis on "holistic" medicine, integrating hands-on manipulation in addition to conventional testing and treatment. In many states, M.D.s and D.O.s are combined for licensing and regulation, but they have remained separate in Florida.
According to the DOH investigative report, the whipping and torture of 37-year-old woman CK began in late 2010, after she had been Simon’s patient for many years.
The report says the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office began investigating after CK and her mental-health counselor called to report the abuse. CK told a detective that Simon suggested the after-hours sessions at his office, which she called “punishment therapy,” as a treatment for her severe depression. She said she didn’t like it but submitted to it because he told her it had helped others.
The detective then went to Simon’s office, where he obtained the doctor’s consent for a search. In an exam room, the detective said, he found whips, chains, blindfolds, handcuffs and sexual paraphernalia.
Simon told the detective that he and CK had a consensual sexual relationship that began after she was no longer his patient, the report shows.
But investigators found he had prescribed medicine for CK several times during the year that the sadomasochistic sessions continued. In any event, Florida law bars doctors from turning their patients into sex partners, whether it is consensual or not, because it is considered an abuse of power.
CK told investigators she wanted to stop the sessions but was afraid Simon would hurt her if she did. She also needed the medication samples he gave her, she said.
But after a scary three-hour torture session in November 2011, she said, she decided she could not continue. She said Simon left her tied up in a closet for quite a while; after letting her out, she said, he choked her and whipped her repeatedly.
The following month she attempted suicide and was hospitalized, the records show. After her release she asked her counselor to help her file a complaint.
Because Simon had been CK's family doctor for years, he knew of her fragile mental state, members of the board said Friday.
"She was damaged, and you manipulated her," Burns said. "You subjected her to mental and physical torture."
Simon responded, "Was it torture? Not really. It was inappropriate behavior. I'm not sure I'd consider it torture. ...At no point in time did I coerce her, threaten her."
Burns came back with this: "Do you think anyone would consent to being choked?"
Simon said quietly, "No."
In pressing for revocation, Dr. Joel Rose called the case "the most egregious one I've seen." He said Simon showed "predatory behavior."
Technically, Simon has some time to consider his options; he must respond in writing within seven days after he receives the board's final order in the mail. It may be that his only recourse is through the Division of Administrative Hearings.