Dr. Neil Solomon said yesterday that he has "not been pure" but steadfastly denied the allegations of three former patients that he coerced them into sex while they were under his care.
The 61-year-old physician, who served as Maryland's first health secretary, did not specifically admit that he had sexual relationships with three women who have claimed in lawsuits that he compromised the doctor-patient relationship by luring them into sex.
Nor did he deny it. In a 1 1/2 -page typed letter, he seemed to imply that he allowed his professional relationships with the patients to drift into sex but that the intimacy was strictly consensual.
"In my most difficult decision of all, I confessed to my wife and my children that while I had not been monstrous, I had not been pure," he said. "As to the plaintiffs in the lawsuits, I have never assaulted them. I have never forced them. I certainly have never drugged anyone."
The denials seemed particularly aimed at one women who charged that Dr. Solomon forced her to ingest vials of "mind-altering drugs" before having sex with her and that he threatened to physically harm her if she revealed his misdeeds.
Later in his statement, Dr. Solomon said he wondered what motivated the three "troubled women" to make their allegations. Without answering his own questions, he asked whether the women had prior business dealings with him that went awry, whether they meant to "derail" his bid for governor or whether they had feelings he did not reciprocate.
Then, he seemed to concede that he overstepped a forbidden boundary of intimacy.
"All this overlooked the most important fact of all. That doctors are held to a higher standard, as they should be. That like oil and water, doctors and patients don't mix. A patient might feel something very overpowering but a doctor must resist that temptation, or turn in his license because he didn't."
Last month, Dr. Solomon attempted to surrender his medical license to the state Board of Physician Quality Assurance. But the board, which is conducting its own investigation of Dr. Solomon's practice, refused to accept it. Without commenting directly on the case, an official said "all investigation stops" if the board accepts a surrender.
Dr. Solomon's private practice in Towson concentrated on weight control, allergies, fitness and smoking cessation.
The plaintiffs' names have all been sealed in court documents to protect their privacy. In suits filed in July and August, all three allege that the sexual improprieties took place in the late 1980s. Only one of the plaintiffs has acknowledged a prior business relationship with the doctor -- a woman who said she became his patient after he started taking an aerobics class she was teaching. Another patient, claiming no prior dealings with Dr. Solomon, said he gave her a job working in his office after she began seeing him for treatment of a medical condition.
The plaintiffs' lawyer, Joann Suder, could not be reached for comment.
Dr. Solomon decided to issue his statement, parts of which he also read on WJZ-TV, because he had grown tired of public allegations made by patients hiding behind anonymity, said his lawyer, E. Dale Atkins III.
Mr. Atkins declined to say whether his client was suggesting, by his statement, that he had consensual sexual relationships with the three former patients who sued him. But Mr. Atkins said, "I think you can make the rational inferences that flow from the statements."
Dr. Solomon last month filed for bankruptcy, delaying proceedings in the multimillion-dollar lawsuits. At the same time, he issued a statement saying the women made "a number of false allegations" and that he had filed the bankruptcy petition to protect his family "from a fate they can not afford and do not deserve."
He also quit as chairman of state panels on drug and alcohol abuse, AIDS and health care reform and stopped exploring the possibility of a candidacy for governor.
TEXT OF DR. NEIL SOLOMON'S STATEMENT
I want to thank the hundreds of people from Maryland and across America who have written and called me with their support in this time of personal despair. As you know, a lawsuit was filed against me on July 30th by three anonymous women alleging past indecencies you normally read about in dime store novels. This was at a time I was a potential candidate for governor.
When it first happened, I was more bemused than shocked. No one will believe this trash, I comforted myself. After all, my life has been devoted to helping people, not harming them. This whole thing is ludicrous.
But as it turns out, the joke was on me. Once the lawsuits were lodged, they started to have a life of their own. The newspapers reported it, newspeople pursued it, and the public read line by line every twisted word of it over the kitchen table.
Before I knew it, I was proven guilty in the court of public opinion. I was looked at by some as a very bad character. I saw my practice dwindle, my reputation plummet, and my life's savings diverted to lawyers. My good name, something I had worked a lifetime to achieve, was called into question. My good public works only worked to make my predicament that much more sensational.
I filed bankruptcy, I offered to surrender my license to practice medicine, and in my most difficult decision of all, I confessed to my wife and my children that while I had not been monstrous, I had not been pure. Contrary to what the lawsuits wildly claim, I steadfastly maintain that the allegations are outrageous. As to the plaintiffs in the lawsuits I have never imposed myself on them. I have never assaulted them. I have never forced them. I certainly have never drugged anyone.
I wonder what possessed these three troubled women to join together in this enterprise at this particular time. Was it the lure of money? Was it that they were all friends and each had prior business dealings with me that did not work out? Was it for feelings I did not reciprocate? Was it to derail my political career? The answer I will never know.
But one thing I do know. All this overlooked the most important fact of all. That doctors are held to a higher standard, as they should be. That like oil and water, doctors and patients don't mix. A patient might feel something very overpowering but a doctor must resist that temptation, or turn in his license because he didn't.
I don't know where this case goes from here. The medical board will probably hold hearings behind closed doors with anonymous people, but I cannot afford the pain and the expense of being forced to sit through them. The medical board has refused to accept the voluntary surrender of my medical license. They want to make a public example of me before the entire medical profession.
But maybe there's a silver lining in all this. Maybe my misfortune will put all patients and doctors more on notice and more on guard.
For myself, I pray for only one thing. The continued love of my beloved wife and children, and to be able to prove that love every day of my life.