FRESH OUT OF jail, suspended plastic surgeon Gregory Johnson now faces an array of state malpractice charges that could cost him his medical license for good. In a 27-page complaint just issued by the state Medical Quality Assurance Commission, Johnson's former office manager and 14 former patients say they were either medically mistreated and/or sexually attacked by the 47-year-old physician between April 1993, when he opened his Kirkland office, and March 1997, when he was arrested for rape. (See "The Man Who Remade Women," SW 2/5/98). Johnson also faces 15 malpractice suits, including one just filed by the alleged rape victim.
The state accuses Johnson of giving negligent treatment, allowing unlicensed persons to practice medicine, and abusing and having sexual contact with patients. One former patient says Johnson proposed inserting breast implants by tunneling up through her navel, something the board calls a "highly risky and unnecessary procedure." Another, who was recovering at home, says Johnson yanked her out of her bed, apparently not believing she was still ailing from breast surgery.
The office manager alleges she witnessed violations of medical standards and was sexually attacked during her one short month of employment in 1993. According to the state complaint, she and Johnson had just returned to the Carillon Point surgical office after going out to eat when Johnson "pushed [the manager] into his office, forcefully held her, ripped her blouse and bra off, and fondled her breasts and vagina." She says she struggled and escaped. Though medically inexperienced, she was ordered to assist and administer medications after Johnson's scrub tech (who was pregnant) fell and nearly passed out during surgery. The state complaint also says a visitor to the office in 1996 saw a medical assistant repeatedly leave a patient during anesthesia to answer the phone.
After Johnson's arrest last year, more than 50 women contacted Kirkland police with complaints, some alleging sexual assault and harmful medical techniques. In her new lawsuit, the alleged rape victim, Debra Emery, says she received harassing calls and death threats after accusing Johnson of attacking her. She admits she hopes to use a civil trial to make Johnson take the stand, as she did twice during his criminal trials. Prosecutors were unable to prove he raped her but convicted him of physical assault.
Johnson has maintained his innocence and issued a blanket denial of all malpractice charges. His attorneys contend the civil lawsuits are the work of opportunistic ex-patients seeking large insurance settlements. Bonnie King, the medical board's executive director, says the license-revocation charges are to be heard in October, "unless [Johnson] requests a prompt hearing, which could occur sooner."