The Austin Chronicle

Judge Clears Van Boven of Mistreating Patients

By Michael King, September 20, 2017, 3:00pm, Newsdesk

As he had anticipated earlier this year, Dr. Robert Van Boven has been “vindicated” of inappropriate or unprofessional behavior during the treatment of three patients at Lakeway Regional Medical Center in 2014 and 2015.

On Friday, Sept. 15, Administrative Law Judge Hunter Burkhalter, of the State Office of Administrative Hearings, ruled that the staff of the Texas Medical Board had “failed to prove” allegations made against Dr. Van Boven: either that he had behaved in a “sexually inappropriate” manner with two patients, or had behaved unprofessionally with another patient and his family.

Burkhalter’s detailed, 80-page “Proposal for Decision” – which the TMB itself is expected to officially confirm, presuming no staff appeal – describes the sexual harassment allegations by two female patients (identified only as “Patient A” and “Patient B”) as raising substantial doubts about their “accuracy and veracity.”

“Simply put,” wrote the judge, “there are enough implausibilities and issues of doubt raised by the evidence that the [judge] cannot conclude that the allegations of Patients A and B are more likely than not, true.” (The patients had alleged that Van Boven had touched them in inappropriate ways – creating “boundary violations” – during office examinations.)

Of “Patient C” – whose family accused Van Boven of making them uncomfortable and of being too aggressive in his interactions with them – the judge ruled that while Van Boven occasionally might have been “tactless,” he had not behaved unprofessionally, nor disrupted his patient’s treatment. “Accordingly,” he wrote, “he did not commit the violations alleged” in the complaint. All three patients or their families, the judge’s ruling noted, had various reasons to be upset at Van Boven’s diagnoses – and they reacted to those (accurate) diagnoses by blaming the doctor, lending their complaints a taint of retaliation.

Dr. Van Boven has also been embroiled in a larger legal battle with LRMC and its successor hospital management group, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Lakeway – for several years. (“The Doctor vs. the Hospital”) On Sept. 1, the doctor re-filed an earlier lawsuit against the hospital, its management, and parent company (Baylor Scott & White Health), on a range of charges including retaliation, defamation, and civil conspiracy. (“Whistleblower Sues Lakeway Hospital …”)

Since the filing of the complaints nearly two years ago, Dr. Van Boven had been forbidden by the TMB from treating female patients, and suffered substantial damage to his reputation. In July, he told the Chronicle, “Based on the [SOAH] hearing, I expect to be fully vindicated by the administrative hearing officer.” TMB staff subsequently attempted to use that statement against him, as evidence of presumption, before the hearing judge.

Of the latest decision, Van Boven said, “I am grateful to the judge for his careful assessment of the evidence and the facts that debunked these allegations, and that have deflected from the root cause and genesis of this nightmare: my reporting of avoidable hospital harm, and of administrators failing to be transparent. That [hospital conduct] is precluding the opportunities for remedies and reform.”

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