Over the objections of the state Department of Public Health, a divided state Medical Examining Board Tuesday reinstated the medical license of a Woodbridge pulmonologist who had inappropriate sexual contact with two women during medical exams in 2004.
The board voted 11-5 to reinstate the license of Dr. Sushil Gupta but also placed his license on a one-year probation. Gupta will be required to have a female chaperone present during any treatment of a female patient and will have to hire a doctor to monitor his practice. The board also ordered Gupta to have each female patient answer a questionnaire about his treatment of them,
DPH had objected to the reinstatement but asked if the license were to be reinstated, then Gupta should only be allowed to care for male patients.
“We suggested adding layers of protection because we feel the risk [to the public] remains real,’’ DPH staff attorney David Tilles told the board.
The board reinstated Gupta’s license without that restriction. Members Dr. Jeffrey A. Gordon, Queenie Collins, Anne C. Doremus, Raymond S. Andrews Jr. and Dr. Douglas W. Fellows opposed the reinstatement.
“To me, the first question is public safety. I still believe…no [restrictions or] order will adequately protect the public and patients,” said Gordon, who served on a three-member panel that held a hearing on Gupta’s request for reinstatement in May.
But board chairperson Kathryn Emmett and Dr. Eric J. Hodgson, the other two hearing panel members, said the restrictions placed on Gupta will work.
“Having a chaperone present really does prevent inappropriate behavior,’’ Hodgson said. “Our provisions can ensure the safety of the public.”
Records show Gupta has never admitted to the sexual abuse, but in its memorandum of decision, the board cited testimony from Dr. Leslie M. Lothstein, a West Hartford clinical psychologist, who concluded that Gupta is a not a sexual predator. The board also concluded that Gupta is remorseful about the harm he caused his patients, records show.
Gupta apologized in writing to the board and the women in November 2012. He also wrote that he had completed courses on “professional boundaries” and agreed to the chaperone requirement. State records show he has been helping to run the business side of the Hamden Sleep Disorders Center.
Gupta was at the meeting but did not speak before the board. His attorney, James Biondo, declined to comment after the decision.
The case began in 2004 when a female employee and two female patients accused Gupta of sexual misconduct during medical exams.
A Medical Examining Board hearing found that the testimony of the employee and one of the patients was credible. The third woman did not testify.
State records show the employee stated that Gupta had massaged her breasts during an exam and said they were soft and beautiful. She said that Gupta then asked to kiss her breasts and she said no. During the same exam, she said, he also pulled down her pants, touched her pubic area and said she was “hot,” state records show.
The state hearing panel found there was no legitimate medical reason for Gupta to have massaged the two women’s breasts or touched the employee’s pubic area during pulmonary exams. The board revoked his license in 2006.
Gupta had also been arrested, and a jury found him guilty of two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault in 2005, state records show. He appealed the verdicts, and the state Appellate Court set aside the convictions and ordered a new trial. In 2010, the state Supreme Court agreed, upholding the reversal of the conviction.
That year, a judge granted Gupta accelerated rehabilitation, a special form of probation. In July 2012, Gupta completed the probation and the criminal charges were dismissed, state records show.
In 2008, the medical board denied Gupta’s request to have his license reinstated. In January of this year, it granted his request for a reinstatement hearing over the objections of a DPH lawyer.
In other business Tuesday, the Medical Examining Board fined a Torrington orthopedic surgeon $5,000 for operating on the wrong joint on a patient’s finger on Nov. 20, 2012. The surgeon, Dr. Douglas C. Wisch, did not contest the case and agreed to the fine under a consent order.
Wisch, who has been practicing medicine in Connecticut since 1993, works at the Litchfield Hills Orthopedic Associates in Torrington.