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Doctor defends abortion referrals

  • Associated Press
  • Published Saturday, Sep. 17, 2011, at 12:08 a.m.

TOPEKA — A Kansas physician disputed allegations Friday that her records contained inadequate information about mental health exams on young patients she referred to the late physician George Tiller's clinic for late-term abortions.

Attorneys for physician Ann Kristin Neuhaus also attempted to bolster her case with the State Board of Healing Arts by calling University of Kansas Medical professor Allen Greiner, who has worked with her, interviewed her and reviewed her files. He said he believes her exams met accepted standards of care.

A complaint before the board accuses Neuhaus of negligence in performing exams for 11 patients ages 10 to 18 who had abortions at Tiller's clinic in Wichita in 2003. Kansas law required Tiller to obtain an independent second opinion before terminating each pregnancy.

Neuhaus concluded the patients were suffering from acute anxiety, acute stress or single episodes of major depression.

Board attorneys presented evidence this week that Neuhaus' records contain little specific information about each patient and that she used a computer program, PsychManager Lite, to produce generic reports.

Neuhaus rejected the idea that her records show no basis for her assessments.

"I disagree, and we've been over this ground before," Neuhaus said when questioned about the records for a patient who had an abortion in August 2003. "I think there's plenty of specific information in here."

Greiner said many family practice doctors don't assess patients' functioning in social, school or work settings in examining their mental health — something Neuhaus did for each one. Greiner, also the health officer for Wyandotte County's public health department, worked with Neuhaus there.

"I believe the standard of care was met," he testified.

Greiner's statements contrasted with testimony from Liza Gold, a clinical psychiatry professor at the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, who concluded after reviewing Neuhaus' records that she failed to meet accepted standards of care. Among other things, Gold cited a lack of specific details about each patient that Gold said could help other doctors treating them.

Attorneys for Neuhaus and the board have been presenting their evidence and testimony to a hearing officer, who will recommend to the full board whether Neuhaus should face sanctions. The 15-member board, mostly physicians, has the power to revoke her Kansas license.

The hearing adjourned Friday before Greiner finished his testimony. It will resume, but a date hasn't been set.

Neuhaus provided second opinions for Tiller from 1999 through 2006, usually in a private room at Tiller's clinic. She testified Thursday that Tiller never pressured her to allow abortions to go forward and that her opinions were truly independent.

Tiller was one of a few U.S. physicians performing late-term procedures when he was shot to death in May 2009.

Board attorney Reese Hays repeatedly questioned Neuhaus about the lack of definitive statements from her in records stating that patients were seeking abortions, or the lack of her signature on documents. Neuhaus noted that her patients' files had cover letters from Tiller's clinic.

"A reasonable person would conclude that a person coming to an abortion clinic is seeking abortion services," she said. "I didn't realize I had to write something only a contract attorney would."

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