Andrew Traub
|Medical Malpractice

State board reprimands 6 Central Texas doctors

The Texas Medical Board sanctioned six Austin-area doctors, including a Marble Falls psychiatrist who the board said had a sexual relationship with a recent patient with a history of childhood sexual abuse and then violated the patient’s confidentiality by telling his fiancee. The fiance called the patient and insulted her, according to the board’s order.

Dr. Barlow Smith, 79, of Marble Falls was among the 131 doctors the board sanctioned in August, a record number exceeding the previous high of 99 sanctions in August 2006, board spokeswoman Jill Wiggins said. She attributed the rise to an increase in complaints.

Smith’s lawyer, Nina Willis, said Smith was not disciplined for sexual misconduct but only for breaching patient confidentiality. She said he should be praised for a stellar 45-year career and not be written about because of a “minor disciplinary action.”

Wiggins said the board reprimanded Smith for two violations: the confidentiality breach and unprofessional conduct for having sex with a recent patient. Doctors have more power in sexual relationships with patients, which is a reason such involvement is forbidden, Wiggins said. Although the patient had stopped seeing Smith, she was in his care recently enough that the board found a violation of its rules and the health and safety code, Wiggins said.

In addition to the reprimand, the board fined Smith $3,000 and ordered him to take a professional boundaries course.

The board also ordered that:

  • Psychiatrist Sergio H. Luna of Austin be monitored by another doctor for a year and take courses in record keeping, child psychiatry and prescribing. The order said he failed to document sufficiently the justification for medications he prescribed to a 7-year-old boy. Neither Luna nor his lawyer returned a call.
  • Family practice doctor Chad F. Babcock of Austin pay a $2,000 fine and take courses in ethics and professional boundaries after determining that he treated and prescribed drugs to a friend without keeping adequate records or establishing a professional relationship. Lawyer Tony Cobos said Babcock acted out of compassion to help an uninsured friend and did no harm.
  • Family practice doctor Scott Patterson Liggett of Marble Falls take courses in record keeping, diabetes treatment and communicating for not checking a diabetic patient’s blood sugar while at the office. The patient went to the emergency room the next day and was hospitalized for two days, an outcome that might have occurred anyway, the order said. Neither Liggett nor his lawyer returned calls.
  • San Marcos psychiatrist Theodore Dake Jr. take a record-keeping course for failing to keep adequate records on a patient. “This was a very minor infraction, and I had to hire an attorney and an expert witness that cost me nearly $25,000,” he said.
  • Internal medicine doctor David Weeks of Austin take a record-keeping course because he failed to sufficiently document justification for billing a patient for services that went beyond preventative care. Weeks, who declined to comment, refunded the charges.
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