Doctor Is Accused Of Sexual Assault, So Why Is He Still Practicing?

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA)  —  You may only see your doctor a few times a year, but often those visits reveal the most intimate details of your life.

So what happens when a doctor violates your trust, or, in a worse-case scenario, breaks the law?

With teachers or police, they are often pulled from job duty until they get their day in court.

But as CBS2’s Kara Finnstrom found out, with doctors, it’s not that clear-cut, and it could be putting some patients at risk.

“You’re taught that you’re supposed to be able to trust your doctor,” said one woman.

Finnstrom spoke to two women who don’t know each other but they went to the same Encino doctor.

“I haven’t been able to see any male doctors at all. Like, I have these anxiety and panic attacks,” said the other.

Their former doctor, Michael H. Popkin, 68, was arrested in December. He’s accused of sexually assaulting at least two patients in his office.

Just this week, a judge determined there’s enough evidence against the doctor to order a trial  He is innocent until proven guilty, of course. But until a jury decides his fate, what about his patients?

During the 11 months since he was arrested, Popkin was released on bail and his office has stayed open. In April, a judge ordered him to have a chaperone present when treating female patients.

Last month, Finnstrom reported, he was restricted to treat men only.

As his case has moved forward, the patients Finnstrom spoke to wondered about other women in vulnerable positions.  Unaware of the serious accusations he is facing, one of the woman’s attorneys alleged Popkin groomed her client by making her rely on him for drugs, then did an unnecessary breast exam and later forced himself on her.

“He approached her and grabbed her by the neck and shoved his tongue into her mouth and at the same time thrust his crotch area onto her person,” said attorney Anahita Sedaghatfar.

“The very few individuals who are coming forward have a motivation to make money,” said Popkin’s attorney, Brett Greenfield.

Popkin has pleaded not guilty. His attorney said his client has treated thousands of patients over the decades and has done nothing criminal.

Because it can take years for the courts or the California Medical Board to resolve these types of cases, sex crimes detective Ninette Toosbuy says potential patients need to check on their doctors themselves.

“There’s a perception a doctor wouldn’t do something like this, a teacher wouldn’t do something like this, a priest wouldn’t do something like this,” Toosbuy says.

She’s says a good place to start are patient testimonial sites like Yelp.

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