Richland anesthesiologist's license suspended after accusations of touching women's breasts

The state commission overseeing physician licensing has reaffirmed the suspension of a former Richland anesthesiologist who was accused of touching two female patients' breasts while they were unconscious for surgery.

The Medical Quality Assurance Commission found Dr. Lloyd V. Olson committed unprofessional conduct when he touched the women's breasts just prior to surgery.

The findings were based on the provision in the unprofessional conduct law prohibiting sexual misconduct, which is defined in the Revised Code of Washington as "touching breasts, genitals or any sexualized body part for any purpose other than appropriate examination or treatment," documents said.

The commission also found Olson's physical contact with the two patients was forceful because they were unconscious and unable to give informed consent to having their breasts touched.

The commission found the state had not presented clear and convincing evidence of moral turpitude, dishonesty or corruption by Olson.

Olson's licenses to practice in Washington and Colorado were suspended in May after Kadlec Regional Medical Center surgical technician Jamie Roy complained about Olson's behavior during surgeries April 1 and 2.

At the time, Olson was employed by Premier Anesthesiology, a medical group providing anesthesia to Kadlec under a contract.

Commission documents said that on April 1, Roy was the technician for a surgery placing a chemotherapy mediport in a 30-year-old female known as Patient A.

Patient A was diagnosed with a stage four cancer -- the most progressive and potentially terminal category -- and was having a port installed just below her collarbone to deliver chemotherapy drugs.

Roy testified to the commission at a hearing in July that after Patient A was rendered unconscious and before Dr. John Droesch began the surgery, Roy saw Olson cup the patient's breasts and massage them for one to two minutes while saying he wondered if she had breast implants.

In a second surgery that day involving a 58-year-old woman -- called Patient B -- who was undergoing a breast biopsy, Roy again saw Olson grope the patient's breasts for one to two minutes, documents said.

Olson's attorney, David Smith of Seattle, told the Herald in June that Olson had touched the upper part of the women's breasts for about five seconds, and had done so because he was concerned about their identities.

Olson said in a written response to the allegations that he previously had been told Patient A had breast implants, but then saw she didn't appear to have implants and he was concerned she might not be the right patient, or that the surgeon might damage the implant when making an incision for the port.

"I have had prior experiences while evaluating patients prior to surgery in which one patient's chart contained information (history and physical, lab reports, imaging studies reports) of another patient which had been misfiled," Olson said.

The suspension order issued by the commission on Wednesday found Olson had no medical reason to touch the women's breasts, and said that if he wanted to verify their identities he could have asked them before administering anesthesia or checked the ID bracelets on their wrists.

The order also said Olson had an opportunity to question the two patient's identities during a presurgery check known as a "time out," when the surgical team verifies that the right patient is getting the right procedure.

Olson didn't speak up during the time out for either patient, documents said.

Roy testified Olson also was the anesthesiologist for two vaginal hysterectomies on April 2, and said he left the head of the operating table where anesthesiologists typically stay to monitor equipment and walked around to the foot of the table, where he stood for about 10 minutes observing each of the vaginal surgeries.

Roy told the commission she found Olson's behavior "inappropriate and creepy," documents said.

Drs. Alexander Ortolano and Richard Lorenzo -- the two surgeons performing the hysterectomies -- and Dr. Robin Kloth, another doctor working for Premier Anesthesiology, also told the commission Olson had left the head of the table to observe the surgeries.

Ortolano and Kloth told the commission they found Olson's behavior odd, documents said.

After the April 2 surgeries, Roy told Kloth about the two groping incidents the day before. Premier Anesthesiology decided to terminate Olson's employment contract, but he resigned and moved back to Colorado, where he had lived and worked previously.

Smith told the Herald in June that Olson's return to Colorado had been planned prior to any allegations being made against him.

In the order issued Wednesday, the commission ordered Olson to undergo a clinical skills evaluation and continuing education in Colorado.

Once he completes those requirements, he can apply to have the suspension lifted, but will face a three-year probation if he wishes to practice in Washington.

Olson has no prior history of discipline in either Washington or Colorado.