A Council Bluffs anesthesiologist and pain management specialist said Friday that if he could do it over again, he would make sure someone else was in the room when he treated patients.
“Never again will I allow myself to be put in that position,” Dr. Michael Prescher said Friday. “You have to protect yourself and your livelihood and your license, first and foremost. Never put yourself in that position. I've learned the hard way.”
Last December, the Iowa Board of Medicine suspended Prescher's Iowa medical license amid allegations of sexual misconduct, unethical or unprofessional misconduct and professional incompetency.
The board dismissed the sexual misconduct allegations after concluding that they were not supported by the evidence presented at a January hearing. In a decision made public this week, a Pottawattamie County District Court judge dismissed the charges of unethical or unprofessional misconduct.
Judge Timothy O'Grady ruled that the board had failed to specify the manner in which it found Prescher guilty of those charges. O'Grady said the board had “lumped its analysis” of misconduct together with its analysis of professional incompetency.
The judge upheld the professional incompetency charge, agreeing with the board that Prescher had violated the standard of care in his treatment of chronic-pain patients. O'Grady also upheld the yearlong suspension of Prescher and a $10,000 fine, plus the requirement that Prescher complete a professional boundaries evaluation and a medical records-keeping course before he can seek reinstatement of his Iowa medical license.
Prescher, who lives in Omaha, said Friday that he has paid the fine, nearly completed his suspension and taken the course. He said he looked forward to the boundaries evaluation.
Prescher said he felt “somewhat vindicated” by the judge's decision, noting O'Grady said that the board had not found anything he had done that violated the standards and principles of medical ethics or that was contrary to honesty, justice or good morals.
The board found that Prescher provided treatment to four women in his office that rendered them unconscious without having staff or an adult chaperone present.
The board also found that he had failed to obtain written consent from the patients before the procedures were performed, that he failed to adequately monitor or document their vital signs during their procedures and that he allowed two of the patients to drive home afterward.
Prescher disputes that anyone was unconscious during the treatments in his clinic.
Prescher's problems began after he performed an epidural injection on a woman in her 40s in February 2009. The woman later said the procedure was performed when the office was closed and no other health care provider or staff member was present. In addition, a woman in her 20s accused Prescher of performing trigger-point injections in April 2010 when the office was closed and no one else was present.
Each of the women indicated that Prescher had engaged in nonconsensual sexual activity with her during the procedure when she was sedated and unable to protect herself.
Prescher denied that anything improper occurred.
Council Bluffs police investigated the allegations, and Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber said his office determined the evidence that police had gathered was insufficient to secure a conviction.
Last December, after investigating the women's complaints, the Board of Medicine issued an emergency order suspending Prescher's Iowa medical license pending a hearing.
Officials at Jennie Edmundson Hospital in Council Bluffs, after learning of the license suspension, immediately suspended Prescher's clinical and admitting privileges.
“Prior to all this,” Prescher said Friday, “I'd never been in a lawsuit, never been disciplined, was chairman of my department and had just become chief of staff at the hospital.”
In the time between the initial complaints and the board's emergency order, Prescher said, he made sure someone else was present when he treated patients.
Three women came forward after the initial suspension was announced. They alleged that Prescher had treated them when his office was closed and no other staff were present, but those women did not allege that anything criminal had occurred. Their complaints led the board to amend the charges against Prescher.
The Board of Medicine issued its decision in the case in March, after the January hearing. In its decision, the board said, “The purpose of the chaperone is more than just covering for the doctor. Rather, as stated well by (Prescher's) own expert, one of the (principal) purposes for having a chaperone is to protect the patient. The chaperone not only protects the patient from actual harm, but from the uncertainty as to what might have occurred while under sedation.”
Prescher filed a petition for judicial review, challenging the board's findings and sanctions.
The judge's decision was issued Sept. 7, but it was sealed, at Prescher's request, until Tuesday. It was added to the court file Friday.
Prescher, 48, said that his wife and children have been “amazing” through his suspension and said he hopes to have his license reinstated. A civil suit also has been filed against Prescher by one of the first two women who alleged wrongdoing. Prescher said his attorneys have advised him not to comment.
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