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US Dentist Accused of Sexual Impropriety

by Medindia Content Team on October 15, 2007 at 6:28 PM
US Dentist Accused of Sexual Impropriety

Dr.Mark K.Anderson, a dentist has had a thriving dental practice in the idyllic small town of Woodland in California in US and is father of seven.

Many of his patients say he was kind and caring, always upbeat and ready with a corny joke.

But he is in deep trouble now. As many as 27 women have come forward to accuse the 48-year-old doctor of groping them in the examination chair.

The Yolo County District Attorney's Office has filed two misdemeanor charges of battery and sexual battery against the dentist based on one patient's allegations. It is investigating complaints by the other women to determine whether additional charges should be filed.

The state dental board has suspended Anderson's license, but Attorney Robert Zaro told administrative law judge Jonathan Lew at a hearing Thursday that he should let Anderson keep his dental license while disciplinary appeals proceed. Anderson would be supervised by two assistants and would no longer do the chest rubs, Zaro said.

Zaro said Anderson needed to keep seeing patients so he can feed his seven children and pay for his defense.

The judge made no immediate decision.

Police say Anderson said during recorded phone calls that he routinely massaged patients' chests to treat temporo-mandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, which causes neck and head pain.

The allegations have left friends and relatives unable to reconcile their picture of a devoted, church-going father with the sordid stories of inappropriate touching told by his accusers.

Anderson has declined to comment since his arrest on the battery charges Sept. 13. He has been free on $10,000 bail and faces his first criminal hearing Oct. 25.

His attorney, Michael Rothschild, said his client is "a fine, law-abiding gentleman" who understands the serious nature of the charges against him.

In an interview, Anderson's older brother, Dean, said Mark was a straight-A student and Eagle Scout, guided by a strong sense of right and wrong. He made smart decisions and stayed out of trouble in order to attain his goals.

"Mark has always had a vision of where he's going, what he wants and what's important to him," said his brother, a former Air Force officer who now works in a prosecutor's office dealing with crime victims.

"That's why it's so hard for anyone who knows him to believe that he would have done anything malicious to anyone," Dean Anderson said. "It's not how he thinks or acts. It's not in line with his dreams."

His brother's accusers, however, told a different story to Woodland police, according to a memorandum the state attorney general's office submitted to the Dental Board of California, seeking to pull his license.

The memo quotes extensively from Woodland Police Department reports, which detail the allegations made by two female patients.

According to those reports, a 28-year-old patient said she went to Anderson's office Aug. 27 to be fitted for a mouthpiece to protect her teeth from grinding at night. She was reclined in the dentist's chair, her legs slightly higher than her head, with Anderson behind her, the report states. The dentist massaged her neck, jaw line and upper chest.

Then he asked her, "Did you get a breast augmentation?" according to the report. Shocked, she answered "Yes."

With that, she said, Anderson reached into her shirt and caressed her breasts. "They did a good job," he allegedly told her.

According to the police report, he then put his hand under her bra for 10 seconds.

The woman said she was in shock and did not respond, police said. When a hygienist walked in, Anderson quickly removed his hands, the report says.

Two weeks later the woman told her husband what had happened, according to the report. Both were longtime patients of Anderson's.

The couple went to Woodland police, who asked them to call Anderson while the calls were recorded. Transcripts show Anderson apologized for his conduct and didn't deny touching the woman's breasts, the attorney general's memo states.

Anderson said in the transcripts that during dental examinations for temporal mandibular joint disorders, or TMJ, he routinely checks patients' upper chests and massages their tight muscles, the memo says.

In documents filed with the dental board, an expert said massaging a patient's chest is an "extreme departure" from standard practice.

Police said another patient, 36, reported that three years ago she saw Anderson for TMJ problems. He told her that her neck, shoulder and chest muscles were all connected to her jaw, and he massaged all three, the report states.

At her final appointment in May 2006, she said Anderson cupped her breasts briefly with his bare hands, police reported.

The woman said she felt sickened and angry. Later she wrote Anderson a letter saying he had abused his position and taken advantage of her, the memo says.

"What if you were doing this to other women?," she wrote in her letter, the memo states. "What you did to me was wrong. In my heart, I know you already know that, but you need to hear it.

"I didn't want to face the fact that I was being sexually abused by my dentist," she wrote. "I hope and pray that you will never again make another woman or child feel like you made me feel."

In response, Anderson sent the woman an apology card with a "bunny rabbit character on the front with the caption: 'Ooops!' " the AG's memo states. "I am so sorry that I've lost your friendship, your trust and your respect," Anderson wrote in the card. "I never intended to hurt you in any way."

The AG's memo says at least two dozen other women came forward to police, alleging Anderson had touched them in similar ways during dental treatment.

Some told police Anderson touched them after administering nitrous oxide, the memo states.

Anderson continued to see patients for two weeks after his arrest, until the dental board temporarily suspended his license Sept. 28.

He faces a civil suit filed by attorney Noel Ferris on behalf of the first woman to come forward.

Woodland Police Sgt. Dan Letamendi said Monday that the patients' allegations against the dentist have been referred to the Yolo County District Attorney's Office. Deputy District Attorney Robert Gorman said a team is working to evaluate them.

Kristen Kennedy, 23, a close family friend and longtime patient was shocked by the charges. "At first I thought someone was joking around," she said. "I thought, 'OK, where's the punch line of this sick joke?

"He has never, ever done anything inappropriate," she said.

John Bateson, a patient for the past eight years, said Anderson was personable and "always has a joke to share."

Bateson said he doesn't see how Anderson could have committed the crimes in his dental office. "The physical setting does not lend itself to that kind of activity," he said. "It's a very busy office. There are people going up and down the halls. There are no doors on the exam rooms.

"There's never been a time when I've been alone with him," he said. "He's always had the assistant in there.

"Regardless of the outcome," he said, "the whole situation is a tragedy.

Source: Medindia
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