A state medical board has accused a Fountain Valley psychiatrist of negligence, incompetence and unethical conduct for allegedly entering into a months-long sexual affair with a suicidal patient.
Dr. Samuel H. Albert, 50, faces revocation or suspension of his medical license if the accusation by the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance is upheld. The board will set a hearing date for sometime next year.
Albert was on vacation and unavailable for comment Tuesday, but his attorney, Ivan R. Wainer of Los Angeles, denied the charges.
Albert also faces a separate lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court by the patient, Barbara Lattime, 30, a pharmaceutical cashier from Fountain Valley. Lattime's suit, which seeks an unspecified amount of money for emotional distress, was filed in 1985. A trial date has not been set.
The Board of Medical Quality Assurance filed the complaint against Albert on Oct. 30 and released it Tuesday.
The accusation by BMQA Executive Director Kenneth J. Wagstaff stems from an alleged affair between Albert and Lattime in 1983 after Lattime received psychiatric treatment at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, Newport Beach, for alcoholism and suicidal tendencies.
Albert, a staff psychiatrist at Hoag, also maintains a private practice. Hospital officials Tuesday said they were not aware of the accusations against him.
Lattime was admitted to Hoag on May 7, 1982, and referred to Albert for treatment. She continued to be treated by him at the hospital during a series of subsequent readmissions that year, according to Wagstaff's complaint.
The next year, Lattime's suit alleges, she began seeing him on an outpatient basis at his private office. It was then that Albert allegedly told her that intercourse with him "would be therapeutically beneficial to her and would help maintain her sobriety . . . ," according to her suit.
After that time, she said in an interview that she went into a psychiatric tailspin.
"I was so emotionally upset that I was arrested three times (in separate instances) for drunk driving while I was driving by his house in Laguna Beach," Lattime said. She added that she pleaded guilty to all three charges and served 12 months in County Jail.
Denies All Allegations
Albert's attorney said Tuesday that Albert denies all of Lattime's allegations. In a response to her suit, Albert's attorney wrote that if the allegations are proven true, "said conduct on defendants' part was fully consented to and voluntarily participated in by plaintiff with full knowledge of its likely consequences."
Wagstaff also charged in the same complaint that Albert billed Medi-Cal for $130 for a June 18, 1982, counseling visit with Lattime, although she failed to keep that appointment. That billing, Wagstaff alleged in the complaint, constituted "an act of dishonesty or corruption," and further made Albert's license subject to disciplinary review.
Albert has the right to file a response to all the charges before a hearing, according to state Deputy Atty. Gen. Thomas S. Lazar, who filed the complaint with the medical quality board on behalf of Wagstaff.