Another former patient now claims a local doctor forcibly kissed, groped and assaulted her in his South Bay offices.
The Medical Board of California suspended Dr. Leon Fajerman’s medical license in July, following accusations of improper sexual contact with a female patient.
Fajerman continues to vehemently deny the woman’s accusation and has challenged the suspension.
In August, Judge Abraham Levy, a state administrative law judge, ruled the alleged victim’s testimony was credible and refused to reinstate Fajerman’s medical license. He concluded that allowing Fajerman to treat patients “will endanger the public health, safety and welfare.”
After seeing the NBC 7 Investigates story about that patient, a second former patient, Linda Sanchez, contacted the investigative unit with similar allegations. Sanchez recounted three escalating episodes of inappropriate sexual behavior by the 74-year-old psychiatrist, who has two offices in Chula Vista.
She told NBC 7 Investigates the most blatant incident happened in June, at Fajerman’s private office on 3rd Avenue. Sanchez alleges Fajerman pulled her onto a couch, where he “...kissed me on the mouth, groped at my breasts, and tried to feel me up.” Sanchez also claims Fajerman “tried to pull my pants down."
Sanchez said she escaped the doctor’s grip by promising to meet him later, when she was more in the mood.
"All I wanted to do was escape that office,” Sanchez explained. “So, I said anything I could, just to get out of there."
She said Fajerman agreed, but only after making a final request.
"He said, 'Well show me.' And I was like, 'Show you?' And he says, 'Yeah, let me see what I'm going to have.' So I showed him my backside.”
Looking back, Sanchez now said there were warning signs about her psychiatrist, months earlier.
She recalls a March 31 visit to Fajerman’s other office, at the Chula Vista Medical Plaza. She said she was distraught about her grandmother’s failing health.
"I started to cry in his office,” she said. “And he stood up and came over and gave me a hug, and was comforting me."
Sanchez claims Fajerman didn't stop there.
"He pushed me up against him,” she said. “He put his arms around my back and pushed me up against him, and it just felt uncomfortable."
Confused and upset, Sanchez said she still returned to the clinic on May 12. She said she kept that appointment because she needed counseling and a refill for her anti-anxiety medication.
"And as I was walking out, he got up from his desk...And that's when he stood between the door and myself, and blocked me from going out, and forcibly kissed me,” Sanchez said.
She said she backed away from Fajerman and asked him why he had accosted her. She said he told her, “I like you, and I’m just going for it.”
Fajerman declined several requests for an interview, but his attorney, Bob Frank, told NBC 7 Investigates the doctor denies the allegations.
“There was nothing inappropriate that happened,” said Frank, who dismissed Sanchez’s claims as “completely unfounded.”
The attorney said Fajerman confirmed Sanchez was a patient of his, but insists there was “nothing inappropriate that happened” during any office visit.
“Some of these things that (patients) wind up saying just flat out prove to be completely untrue, and who knows what their motivation was,” said Frank, who has more than 25 years experience defending doctors facing disciplinary action by the Medical Board of California. “We can all think it was some type of financial gain incentive. Who knows, but they do it.”
Dr. Clark Smith, a forensic psychiatrist who has testified as an expert witness in malpractice and physician misconduct cases, said doctors, and especially psychiatrists, are ethically barred from any sort of intimate relationship with a patient, even when that patient wants to break the doctor-patient boundary.
"The American Psychiatric Association is very clear that romantic or sexual involvement is not okay with a current patient, and it's not okay with a former patient," Smith said. He added that the doctor-patient relationship should never go beyond one of “friendliness and respectfulness.”
Smith stressed some patients do fabricate allegations against physicians, and some psychiatric patients might fantasize about a romantic or sexual relationship that never occurred. Smith also noted a vast majority of doctors respect the proper boundaries.
Statistics from the Medical Board of California appear to confirm Smith’s statement. In fiscal year 2015-16, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were 111,000 licensed physicians in California. During that time period, the Medical Board filed 16 requests to immediately restrict or suspend a doctor’s license, based on alleged sexual misconduct.
According to the data, judges granted 13 of those 16 requests and approximately six other doctors had their license revoked, or where placed on probation, publically reprimanded or surrendered their license following an accusation of sexual misconduct.
Sanchez said she understands some people will be skeptical of her allegations, and wonder why she saw Fajerman in June, following his allegedly inappropriate behavior in March and May.
She said she did so because she was “very, very confused. I felt, do I keep going, or do I tell somebody? Honestly, I was at a loss. I didn't know how to do this, how to respond to any of this that was going on."
She also said she was dependent on the psychiatric medication Fajerman had prescribed for her, and could not get refills without his approval. NBC 7 Investigates reviewed Sanchez’s prescription history, and confirmed Fajerman had prescribed at least three medications for her.
"At one point he was insinuating that if we didn't continue this type of behavior, that he would cut the medication that I was on,” Sanchez said. “It felt kind of like coercion."
Smith said he’s aware of patients who continued to see their physician even when they felt uncomfortable about the relationship, to keep getting their medicines.
“Patients worry quite a bit,” Smith said. “You know, 'Will I be able to find another doctor? Will this other doctor give me this prescription?' Some doctor's will, some doctors won't. So they may have a fear that would keep them silent."
Sanchez cancelled three appointments with Fajerman in July, and has since filed a complaint against him with the Medical Board. She is also consulting with an attorney about possible legal action against her former psychiatrist.
NBC 7 Investigates is reporting on medical professionals accused by the public and the California Medical Board of wrongdoing in order to bring information to the public and increase transparency of medical practices in the San Diego region. Currently, this information is reported by the Medical Board on its website.