614 N.E.2d 748 (Ohio 1993), 92-115, Pons v. Ohio State Med. Bd.

Docket Nº:92-115.
Citation:614 N.E.2d 748, 66 Ohio St.3d 619, 1993-Ohio-122
Opinion Judge:FRANCIS E. SWEENEY, SR., J.
Party Name:PONS, Appellee, v. OHIO STATE MEDICAL BOARD, Appellant.
Attorney:Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur, William M. Todd and Terri-Lynne B. Smiles, Columbus, for appellee. Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur, William M. Todd and Terri-Lynne B. Smiles, for appellee., Lee I. Fisher, Attorney General, Susan C. Walker and Diane M. Weaver, Assistant Attorneys General, for app...
Judge Panel:MOYER, C.J., and A. WILLIAM SWEENEY, DOUGLAS, WRIGHT and RESNICK, JJ., concur. PFEIFER, J., dissents. PFEIFER, Justice, dissenting.
Case Date:July 07, 1993
Court:Supreme Court of Ohio

Page 748

614 N.E.2d 748 (Ohio 1993)

66 Ohio St.3d 619, 1993-Ohio-122

PONS, Appellee,



No. 92-115.

Supreme Court of Ohio.

July 7, 1993

Submitted March 16, 1993.


Page 749

When reviewing a medical board's order, courts must accord due deference to the board's interpretation of the technical and ethical requirements of its profession.

In 1970, appellee, Pablo A. Pons, M.D., became licensed to practice medicine in Ohio. Since then, he has specialized in obstetrics and gynecology. On November 9, 1989, appellant, Ohio State Medical Board ("board"), notified Dr. Pons that it proposed to take disciplinary action against him for violations of R.C. 4731.22(B)(6) (a departure from, or failure to conform, to minimal standards of care) and former R.C. 4731.22(B)(15) and its successor former R.C. 4731.22(B)(14) 1 (violations of medical ethics) in his treatment of a woman referred to as "Patient 1."

On January 30, 1990, a hearing was held before a hearing officer with regard to the board's allegations. The testimony and exhibits received at this proceeding and, as noted in the findings of fact, revealed that Dr. Pons was the treating physician of Patient 1 from around 1973 to March 26, 1984. Sometime in 1976, Dr. Pons began a sexual and emotional relationship with her. This relationship lasted until 1983.

Dr. Pons first saw Patient 1 in 1973, when he had been called as a consult by her family physician to perform a therapeutic abortion for her. In large part, the medical indication for the abortion was Patient 1's severe anxiety, anxiety which arose from the birth of a previous child with Down's Syndrome. Dr. Pons was aware of this previous history of psychiatric problems, including Patient 1's treatment and subsequent hospitalization for these problems.

Prior to the beginning of their sexual relationship, Dr. Pons continued to treat Patient 1 for periods of depression and anxiety. At one point, in 1975, [66 Ohio St.3d 620] Dr. Pons counseled Patient 1 and her husband regarding their marital difficulties.

From 1974 to March 1984, Dr. Pons served as Patient 1's exclusive physician. He treated her for all her gynecological problems. He also provided non-gynecological

Page 750

medical care, such as treatment for back pain (severe enough to warrant hospitalization), and the removal of a mole or cyst from Patient 1's shoulder because Patient 1 refused to see other physicians.

When Patient 1 became pregnant with his child in 1983, Dr. Pons ended his sexual relationship with her, yet continued to professionally treat her throughout the pregnancy, serving as her attending obstetrician at the birth. Dr. Pons terminated his professional relationship with Patient 1 in March 1984. At this time, Patient 1 was exhibiting severe depression and Dr. Pons recommended psychiatric treatment.

Expert medical testimony was also provided. The expert witness, Dr. George P. Leicht, opined that Dr. Pons' overall care departed from the minimum standards of care of similar practitioners under the same or similar circumstances because the sexual relationship placed Dr. Pons in a very compromising position in which, as an objective individual, he would have difficulty in rendering appropriate guidance and care.

In addition, Dr. Leicht believed Dr. Pons violated several provisions of the American Medical Association Principles of Medical Ethics for his failure to deal objectively and honestly with the patient and exhibiting a lack of respect for her dignity. Also, Dr. Pons failed to adhere to ethical principles when he neglected to seek a consultation regarding Patient 1's apparent psychiatric problems.

After hearing this evidence, the hearing examiner concluded that Dr. Pons had violated R.C. 4731.22(B)(6), (14) and (15). She filed her report and recommendations to that effect. After considerable discussion, the board approved and confirmed the findings of fact and conclusions of law, yet adopted an amended order. The board's order revoked Dr. Pons' certificate to practice medicine and surgery, stayed the revocation, and indefinitely suspended his certificate for not less than one year, subject to conditions. 2

Pursuant to R.C. 119.12, Dr. Pons filed an administrative appeal to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court. The common pleas court affirmed, finding that the board's order was supported by reliable, probative and substantial evidence, and was in accordance with law. Upon further appeal, the court of appeals vacated the judgment of the common pleas court and [66 Ohio St.3d 621] remanded the cause to the board with instructions that the finding as to violations...

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