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Gynecological oncologist disciplined, must learn boundaries

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

An Albuquerque physician has been reprimanded by the New Mexico Medical Board after complaints arose that he had a four-year secret affair with an employee he also treated as a patient, and allowed her to be paid by the medical practice for having sex with him during her off hours.

The medical board last month voted to allow Dr. Francisco Ampuero, a gynecological oncologist, to continue practicing medicine as long as he completes educational courses on ethics and establishing boundaries. He must also have another person present in the room as a chaperon whenever he examines or treats a female patient.

The board order stated that Ampuero had agreed to the discipline, which cut short a board investigation into “complaints and information alleging (he) engaged in various acts of unprofessional or dishonorable conduct.” There were no details given in the board’s order.

Ampuero, 73, is in the middle of a contentious civil lawsuit with a former partner at the Albuquerque-based Southwest Gynecologic Oncology Associates he co-founded in 1985.

“Critically, the Medical Board has affirmed that Dr. Ampuero should continue to see and treat patients. That is in stark contrast to the positions taken by his former partner who has been attempting to drive Dr. Ampuero out of business and prevent him from seeing patients,” Robert Hanson, one of Ampuero’s attorneys, said Friday.

Ampuero’s former partner, Dr. Karen Finkelstein, reported him to the Medical Board after learning that an employee at Southwest Gynecologic Oncology Associates had been having an affair with Ampuero.

Finkelstein said in court documents that she learned of the “secret sexual relations” after she fired the employee, who later accused Ampuero through attorney Sam Bregman of requiring her to have sex with him in order to keep her job.

Ampuero says the sex was consensual and denies her allegations that he treated her like a “prostitute.”

According to a court filing by Finkelstein’s attorneys, Ampuero “quickly settled that (former employee’s) claim” without the medical practice’s involvement. The amount paid hasn’t been released.

Finkelstein has alleged that Ampuero’s “unprofessional conduct” extended to having sex with a patient – who was the employee with whom he was having an affair. A physician having sexual relations with a patient violates the state Medical Practice Act, and is deemed unethical by the American Medical Association.

Ampuero has responded that he doesn’t believe it “was either unprofessional or dishonorable of him to examine the employee during an emergency and refer her to a specialist.”

A new allegation emerged this week with Finkelstein alleging that Ampuero took photos of some patients’ “private parts” during his exams.

“When he left the practice, he converted the (Southwest Gynecologic Oncology Associates) cellphone to his own use, keeping the photographs,” according to a motion filed in the case that seeks the immediate return of the phone because of the “evidence” it contains.

Ampuero and his lawyers objected to the “implication that these photographs were taken for improper purposes.”

On occasion, Ampuero would take a photo of a lesion or other medical condition that a patient was unable to see due to its location and would then show the photo to the patient, said another of his attorneys, Lauren Keefe.

“This was done solely for medical purposes,” Keefe said a Jan. 13 letter to Finkelstein’s lawyer, Dough Baker.

Ampuero’s general practice was to delete such photos, but Keefe said Ampuero has located “a few” photographs that remained on his cellphone.

Ampuero, who has filed a counterclaim for damages against Finkelstein, in a response said he has used the phone for 25 years and still relies on the phone number to maintain contact with former patients – some of whom were in mid-treatment when he left the Albuquerque-based firm last summer amid the sex allegations.

He contends that Finkelstein acted illegally in locking him out of the practice, canceling his appointments with patients, posting a guard at the practice, and locking him out of the medical practice bank accounts.

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