CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals suspended the medical license of a Beckley psychiatrist after it ruled he engaged in an improper sexual relationship with a patient.
Dr. Omar Hasan appealed a final order entered in the Kanawha Circuit Court on July 13, 2018, that affirmed a decision by the West Virginia Board of Medicine, that imposed professional discipline, including a one-year suspension of his medical license with the requirement that he petition for reinstatement.
"Before this Court, Dr. Hasan contends that the Board erred by failing to adopt recommended findings of fact by its hearing examiner, by improperly considering the content of text messages, and by misstating various facts in its final order," the opinion states. "Based upon our thorough consideration of this appeal, we conclude that the Board has the authority to amend findings of fact recommended by its hearing examiner so long as it provides a reasoned, articulate decision that explains the rationale for its changes."
Justice Evan Jenkins wrote that because the court found the board provided such rationale, did not err in considering the text messages and did not commit reversible error by misstating certain evidence, the court affirmed the board's decision.
Justice John Hutchison concurred in the decision and authored a separate opinion.
Hasan began working as a psychiatrist at Raleigh Psychiatric Services in Beckley in 2007. Beginning in 2011, Hasan began providing psychopharmacological care to a patient known as M.B. and in 2014, M.B. filed a complaint against Hasan, alleging he engaged in an improper sexual relationship with her.
M.B. claimed when Hasan ended the relationship, it led her to attempt suicide. The board investigated M.B.'s allegations and found probable cause to institute disciplinary proceedings against Hasan for professional misconduct.
Ultimately, the board charged him with failing to immediately terminate the physician-patient relationship when their relationship became sexual, which is a violation of West Virginia code. The board then issued a decision to suspend his license for a year and give him a public reprimand, among other sanctions.
Hasan then appealed the board's decision to Kanawha Circuit Court, who affirmed the board's decision. Hasan then appealed to the Supreme Court.
"While we agree that the Board made the three misstatements of which Dr. Hasan complains, we find no grounds to reverse on this issue," Jenkins wrote. "Dr. Hasan was not prejudiced by these misstatements. Neither the Board’s misstatement regarding how forcefully Dr. Hasan’s counsel pressed M.B. to provide specific dates, nor the Board’s erroneous implication that Dr. Hasan had accused M.B. of stealing a necklace, are material to the nature of the relationship between M.B. and Dr. Hasan or to any of the disciplinary charges against him."
The court found no prejudicial error sufficient to warrant the reversal of the board's final order.
In his concurring opinion, Hutchison wrote that while he agreed with the majority, he wanted to write separately to emphasize that the board must also pay appropriate deference to the hearing examiner's factual findings regarding witness credibility.
"In this case, the Board of Medicine’s Final Order rejected some of the hearing examiner’s findings of fact regarding witness credibility," Hutchison wrote. "I think that in some instances, the Board skated close to crossing the line into making its own credibility decisions based upon the cold record. However, after considering the entire record, I agree with the majority’s conclusion that the Board has adequately justified its decision with reasoned, evidence-based explanations. As such, I respectfully concur."
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Case number: 18-0715