(Note: since this article was published, 100 women victims have come forward with many allegations of sexual assault and sexual abuse and Finkel's clinic staff holds up the stories that Finkel was often seen doing improper things to patients, sometimes while the patients were under twilight sleep. Finkel's license was revoked and he awaits trial.  His abortion clinic is up for lease and he is still maintaining his innocence. My comments and updates are in italics below.  SW 2-19-02 )

Finkel will go on trial early 2003 for 35 counts of sexual abuse.  At present, he is scheduled to have 35 trials but the Attorney General is trying to appeal that.  One opinion of why Finkel's lawyer wanted separate trials was that if only one witness is testifying at each trial, the jury could be more easily swayed that the victim was not being truthful, than if 35 women testified.  Dr Finkel is out on bail but he's not doing abortions. The new clinic that he built only a year before his arrest, stands empty with a "For Rent" sign on it.  (update 10-04-02)

Finkel aborted

by Paul Rubin 10/18/01 New Times


Dr. Brian Finkel, the Phoenix abortion doctor now under criminal investigation for allegedly molesting several of his patients, has been suspended from practicing medicine. 

Citing a recent New Times article that detailed the allegations and Phoenix police reports, the Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners voted on October 13 to suspend the controversial Finkel until it holds an investigative hearing, probably before the end of the year.

Finkel did not attend the hearing before a packed chamber at the board's Scottsdale offices. His attorney, Richard Gierloff, says he plans to file papers in Maricopa County Superior Court requesting a temporary restraining order against the board's action. Finkel has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing ("Bedside Matter," Paul Rubin, September 20). (Finkel's main attorney in this case is someone new he hired - who just happens to work for the firm for which Ms McElfresh works - thus requiring Ms McElfresh to recuse herself from the medical board.  Since she is the only woman on the board, this action of Finkel and the attorney are suspect.)

The doctor long has been a lightning rod in the debate over abortion rights. The oft-quoted Finkel owns and operates the Metro Phoenix Women's Clinic. By all accounts, he is Arizona's most prolific abortion doctor, and says he performs about 1,600 procedures a year, or about 20 percent of abortions statewide.

The board believed it had to take action immediately, and voted 5-1 under a state law that says, in part, "If the Board finds . . . that the public health, safety or welfare imperatively requires emergency action, [it] may order a summary suspension of a license pending proceedings for revocation or other action."

Board executive director Ann Marie Berger told the board she initiated the case against Finkel after reading the New Times story. That, she said, was the first she or her staff had heard of the allegations, a surprising comment because a Phoenix police detective indicated in a report that he'd visited the board offices in early 2000 seeking information on Finkel.

Berger said her staff has gotten little cooperation from the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, whose criminal investigators took over investigation of Finkel months ago.

Seven women have filed sexual misconduct allegations against Finkel over the last decade. Each lodged similar complaints -- that Finkel allegedly manipulated their clitorises and fondled their breasts inappropriately during pre-abortion or other examinations. One alleged victim told Phoenix police detective Art Haduch in early 2000 that Finkel also had licked her genitals briefly before he began the procedure. (at this date, 100 women have come forward and additional charges have been filed including sexual assault.)

The police reports also indicated four of Finkel's ex-medical assistants knew of his sexual misconduct, and had spoken with the doctor's wife about it. (Diana Finkel told New Times that she never heard anything of the sort from the ex-employees.) (Current employees have also supported the stories of sexual abuse and misconduct.)

Dr. Richard W. Whitaker, the sole board member to vote against suspension, warned his colleagues not to rush to judgment. He said he's known Finkel for two decades.

"Dr. Finkel is a very unique individual, to say the least . . . possibly obnoxious to a lot a people," Whitaker said, speaking of the doctor's universal reputation as brash and outspoken.

Whitaker's defense of Finkel visibly startled some in attendance when he suggested women who seek abortions may be of questionable integrity. (Dr Whitaker has since retracted his defense of Finkel, citing that the evidence is just too clear to leave much room for doubt).

"Bear in mind the character of his patients," he said, referring to the thousands of women who have undergone abortions at Finkel's clinic since he opened for business in 1982. "I think it behooves us to act cautiously. Other than the article in the [New] Times and the police reports, they all seem to say the same thing."

Board member Dr. Scott Steingard countered by saying the alleged pattern of behavior is what troubles him most. "This is considerably worse [than a he-said, she-said situation]," Steingard said of the spate of allegations against Finkel.  (Dr Steingard is pro choice. At first he felt that the victims coming forward might be a move on pro lifers to "get" Dr Finkel but I told him that the pro life movement was more surprised by this than anyone and the victims coming forward had nothing to do with pro life.  "Then," said Dr Steingard, "That looks very bad for Dr Finkel.")

Board president Dr. Murray Cohen asked: "What do we do to protect the patients on Monday if, in fact, it is an ongoing thing?"

Responded Whitaker, "I don't believe it is. Again, it's a he-said, she-said, without much more defending each one."

Board vice president Dr. Martin B. Reiss said he suspects Finkel's abortion patients would be more likely to keep the doctor's sexual improprieties to themselves than other patients.

"There would be a reluctance on their part to advertise that they've been to a place for an abortion," Reiss said. "I think that it's probably underreported than overreported."

D. Jayne McElfresh, an investigator for a Valley law firm and the only woman on the board, said: "There is evidence that women who did not know each other, who never spoke to each other . . . said the exact same thing. I have a deep concern for the public safety. I have a deep concern for any woman who walks into Dr. Finkel's office on Monday."

McElfresh added that "everyone on the board knows I have been a supporter of Dr. Finkel . . . [But] my concern is for those women who don't get the New Times. . . . There are probably more women out there."

After the story appeared, the paper got calls and e-mails from about a half-dozen women who complained of similar inappropriate treatment by Finkel.

Toward the end of the public discussion, Dr. Cohen told his colleagues, "We have an enigma. We need to protect the public, and we have not 100 percent corroborated the evidence."

That led Whitaker to note that the ex-employees who have spoken to police (and, in some instances, to New Times) stayed on the job after they allegedly had been eyewitnesses to sexual improprieties: "This may be about a disgruntled employee."

In the story, the 51-year-old Finkel vehemently denied wrongdoing with any of his patients. "They misconstrue professional conduct for professional misconduct," the doctor said of his clients. "Physicians that abuse their patients in this state go to prison. I'm not going to prison, because I'm not doing anything wrong."

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