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L.A. psychiatrist accused of improper relations with two patients

December 10, 2009 | 10:01 am

A Los Angeles psychiatrist has agreed to have his medical license placed on probation after a state agency accused him of having controlling and improper relationships with two adult patients, a brother and sister.

In an accusation filed by the Medical Board of California, the state agency that disciplines doctors, Dr. Norman J. Lachman, 68, of Los Angeles, was alleged to have struck and humiliated the brother -- including forcing the man to buy dog food, which the doctor threatened to make him eat.

In addition, the board alleged that Lachman had “very discomforting” sessions with the sister, telling her she was a “hot tamale” and instructing her to stop attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings even though she had a drinking problem.

Under the terms of the settlement, Lachman did not admit to any of the allegations but did waive his right to contest them. The action by the board is relatively rare; in the fiscal year ending in June, the most recent available, 91 out of 127,000 licensed doctors had a license put on probation, and 80 who were being investigated either surrendered a license or had it revoked.

Lachman’s attorney, Peter Osinoff, called the allegations “outlandish.” He said his client agreed to probation of his license for five years because he is disabled and did not have the financial resources to rebut the board’s claims.

Lachman was disabled in a 1994 car accident, and his medical license had been inactive since then, which meant he was precluded from practicing medicine. Prior to that accident, he had treated the brother and sister -- identified in the complaint by initials only -- during family therapy when they were teenagers.

Six years later, in 2000, the sister contacted Lachman when she was having problems with a boyfriend. Her brother contacted Lachman the same year to seek a referral to another psychiatrist, but according to the state board’s accusation, Lachman instead encouraged him to resume therapy with him.

Osinoff said Lachman’s relationship with the brother and sister after they got back in touch with him was strictly social.

“He did not see them as patients, never took any funds from them,” Osinoff said.

The medical board, however, maintained that Lachman was in a physician-patient relationship with both siblings. The agency alleged that in sessions at Lachman’s home between 2000 and 2004, Lachman struck the brother in the stomach, chest and legs with a cane, used his hand to strike the man in his testicles and called him stupid and crazy.

The accusation also detailed Lachman’s alleged efforts to insult and humiliate his patient: referring to him by a girl’s name, asking him to send photos of his girlfriends nude for Lachman to keep and making sexual innuendoes about his sister, among others.

The accusation said that instead of traditional payments, the brother made out checks to Lachman’s accountant or wrote “gift” on the checks. At one point, the medical board said, Lachman made the brother buy him a $3,400 computer.

According to the complaint, Lachman suggested the brother and sister take him out to dinner at restaurants, where the therapeutic sessions continued. Medical board officials said Lachman attempted to cash three checks from the brother totaling more than $73,000.

By then, the brother had ended his sessions and stopped payment on the checks, which had been written months earlier.

“The standard of practice requires avoidance of conflicting relationships, and the avoidance of treatment modalities involving physical abuse, emotional abuse and berating, insulting and demeaning behavior toward patients,” the state accusation said.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

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L.A. psychiatrist accused of improper relations with two patients

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