A state panel permanently stripped Dr. Neil Solomon of his medical license yesterday after the former Maryland health secretary admitted to having sex with at least eight patients over the past 20 years.
In perhaps its harshest sanction ever, the board made it virtually impossible for him to practice again anywhere.
Dr. Solomon, 61, agreed to surrender his medical licenses in Maryland and three other jurisdictions -- Ohio, New York and the District of Columbia.
The state Board of Physician Quality Assurance went further, stipulating that Dr. Solomon can never seek reinstatement in Maryland. And if he tries to regain his medical license in any state or country -- or publicly denies his "unprofessional sexual conduct" -- the board can release the findings of its 2 1/2 -month investigation, including details that are now confidential.
The ruling took the form of a five-page settlement letter written by Dr. Solomon to the board. In the letter, he confessed to two decades of sexual improprieties and acknowledged the penalties.
"I admit that for at least the past 20 years, I have used my position as physician to instigate a wide range of sexual relations with at least eight women patients," Dr. Solomon said.
"This conduct included acts of sexual intercourse, as well as other explicit sex acts. These activities took place in my medical office during patient visits, as well as in other locations."
He further admitted that the sexual activity violated the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship and that he exploited his patients' trust.
In a statement to the media last night, Dr. Solomon said: "With great personal anguish, I have signed what I was asked to sign. I have paid the price. There is nothing more I can do about this matter. There is nothing left to tell.
"I intend now to work very hard to rebuild my life to become a better husband to my wife, a better father to my children, and a better human being."
E. Dale Adkins III, Dr. Solomon's lawyer, described him as "relieved." He said his client wanted to end his practice because of what he had done.
"He is sorry for his conduct," Mr. Adkins said. "I think he's come to terms with himself and he wants to face the rest of his life. . . . He hopes to continue to be a remarkably productive person. And hopes that people remember the good things about Neil Solomon.
L "He is going to do his best to put his life together again."
Dr. Solomon's admission marked a retreat from the sweeping denials he issued this summer and his admission on Oct. 12 that "while I had not been monstrous, I had not been pure."
Dr. Solomon was Maryland's first health secretary, serving from 1969 to 1979. More recently, he was chairman of state commissions on alcoholism and drug abuse, acquired immune deficiency syndrome and health care reform, although he resigned the positions after he became embroiled in the sex allegations.
He had maintained an active private practice in Baltimore County, concentrating on weight loss and allergies. He became nationally known through a syndicated health column carried by more than 30 newspapers, including The Evening Sun, as well as numerous diet books and articles in women's magazines.
Yesterday's settlement was released after the board completed a 5 1/2 -hour meeting behind closed doors. Afterward, the board's vice chairman, Frank J. Gunther, said Dr. Solomon's letter was made as comprehensive and irrevocable as possible "so that we could put this matter to rest once and for all."
Dr. Israel Weiner, the board's chairman, stayed out of the deliberations because of his long acquaintance with Dr. Solomon. He compared the physician's downfall to a "Shakespearean tragedy" in which the protagonist's destruction is brought about by a flaw in his own character.
"I think it's a very sad kind of business, but there is no question about his guilt," Dr. Weiner said. "We were as shocked as the general public was with these revelations."
Dr. Weiner said investigators interviewed eight women who accused Dr. Solomon of sexual misconduct while they were in his care. Dr. Solomon was not interviewed.
"The evidence rapidly became overwhelming and very credible," said. "There was nothing to be gained by getting his side of the story."
Dr. Solomon's troubles began this summer when three women, whose names were sealed to protect their privacy, filed lawsuits claiming that he had lured them into sexual relationships while under his care.
One of the women said he gave her mind-altering drugs to weaken her inhibitions. Another said he suggested that she become his patient after he enrolled in her aerobics class. Later, she said, he lured her into sexual acts that took place in his medical office and her home.
"This is the harshest treatment I've ever noticed the board taking against any medical person, ever," said Joann Suder, attorney for the plaintiffs. "And this case called for the harshest treatment. I think my clients, as well as other women who have contacted my office because they were similarly victimized, will be happy that at least some justice has been served."
The suits are seeking a total of close to $140 million in damages. Dr. Solomon, however, has sought to protect his assets by filing for bankruptcy. In a disclosure to the bankruptcy court, he said he was worth more than $2 million but had only $44,000 that could be subject to claims by the three former patients.
The lawsuits are on hold because of the bankruptcy filing. No action is scheduled in that court until Nov. 15
Dr. Weiner said the letter was negotiated by the board's prosecutor and Dr. Solomon's attorney.
"We accepted it as adequate to protect the public," Dr. Weiner said.
Dr. Weiner was asked whether he was concerned that Dr. Solomon's sexual misconduct with patients had continued for 20 years without state medical authorities learning about the transgressions and taking action.
The discovery of such sexual behavior by doctors "depends exclusively on complaints [to medical authorities] from women," he said. "In the past, they have been very reluctant to complain.
"The moral is to encourage women to come forth with their complaints to us." Asked whether the board's investigation turned up any evidence of criminal wrongdoing, Dr. Weiner said, "No comment."
Dr. Neil Solomon agreed to surrender his medical license in a letter to the Maryland Board of Physician Quality Assurance. The following is an excerpt from the letter:
"I admit that for at least the past 20 years, I have used my position as a physician to instigate a wide range of sexual relations with at least eight women patients. This conduct included acts of sexual intercourse, as well as other explicit sex acts. These activities took place in my medical office during patient visits, as well as in other locations.
"I admit that I engaged in sexual misconduct with my patients during the physician/patient relationship. I admit that I engaged in this conduct with multiple patients over the same time period. I recognize that these patients developed a sense of trust, confidence and dependence through the physician/patient relationship, and that I misused my influence as a physician and the trust my patients placed in me for my own sexual gratification. I admit that it was improper to engage in any sexual relationship with any patient."