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US doctor who threatened staff and patients charged with three crimes

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A patient left a glowing, exclamation-point-heavy review on her doctor’s Facebook page: “My primary care physician is truly the most incredible woman that I have ever met in my life!!!!!!!” Marian Antoinette Patterson “takes the time to listen to me, converse with me, figures out a solution to every problem that arises,” the patient said. The physician was sensitive to her financial situation, too, giving her free samples of a vital medication and even consulting by phone to save the patient money. Patterson, the patient said, “is truly an angel and the meaning of what a doctor should be.”

But, says a report in The Washington Post, the physician left a much different impression on other patients – and some of her employees – during a rage-filled Wednesday afternoon in February. The doctor told one employee she was going to cut her from her “throat to her private parts,” according to a Georgia Composite Medical Board Order of Summary Suspension. Patterson also warned an employee she would “cut her head off and roll it down the hallway,” and that she would “call the employee’s children so that (they) could see it.” She punctuated the violent tirade by grabbing her medical degree off the wall, throwing it to the floor and stomping on it.

The report says, according to the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, Patterson has been charged with three counts of making terroristic threats and another charge of false imprisonment. The false imprisonment charge is for allegedly grabbing an employee’s arm and refusing to let her leave the office. Patterson is accused of throwing water bottles, prescription containers and “a large potted plant” at her employees while cursing. The medical board’s suspension order also says Patterson damaged a wall in her Valdosta, Georgia, office with a hammer used to check patients’ reflexes.

When terrified employees said they were calling 911, Patterson warned them they’d be dead before officers arrived, the order says.

The report says 12 days after that outburst, Patterson was no longer allowed to practice medicine in the state of Georgia, after the medical board said she put her “patients and employees in fear of being (physically) harmed.” The suspension was an emergency action, the order says, because Patterson “poses a threat to the public health, safety and welfare.”

Patterson has been a licensed doctor for 22 years after graduating from the Medical College of Georgia in 1995, according to the medical board. Last month’s suspension was the first disciplinary citation or accusation of misconduct she’d received.

The report says no one answered the phone at Patterson’s home number or at a number listed for her practice. A message at the practice said the voice mailbox was full. It was unclear if she had hired a lawyer.

Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk, who said he has known Patterson since she was a child, is quoted in the report as saying that the doctor had been dealing with “emotional issues” for some time. Recently, he said, a substance abuse problem had also surfaced.
“There’s some factors in her life that have brought this about, some emotional problems,” he said. After the outburst in February, Paulk said, the doctor checked herself into a rehabilitation facility with the blessing of investigators, who were kept apprised of her whereabouts. When she was released, she was formally charged with three crimes and booked into jail. She posted bail and is awaiting trial.

Paulk did not specify the mental or substance abuse issues Patterson suffered from. The report says, according to Nathaniel P Morris, a survey of US physicians showed roughly half believed they had at some point met the criteria for a mental health disorder – but had not sought treatment, worried about being stigmatised or even putting their medical licenses in jeopardy.

The report says 90% of state medical boards have licensing forms that inquire about mental health – questions that can safeguard patients from potentially troubled doctors but may encourage doctors to keep silent.

Paulk said he applauded Patterson for getting help and hoped “that she could come back to being the good doctor she was … I hope she can get her life back together. She’s done a lot of good.”

The Washington Post report

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