Former GI physician accused of sexually assaulting patients retains medical license — 6 important details

Lawmakers are questioning the West Virginia Board of Medicine's decision to give a physician accused of sexually assaulting patients permission to retain his medical license, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports.

Here's what you should know.

1. Former Charleston, W.Va., gastroenterologist Steven Matulis was permitted to keep a valid medical license — on an inactive status — following allegations he sexually assaulted patients while performing medical procedures.

Dr. Matulis made an agreement with the board that he wouldn't practice medicine in West Virginia or any other state while his license is inactive.

2. Fifteen lawsuits accusing Dr. Matulis of sexual assault are pending in court. The plaintiffs accuse Dr. Matulis of allegedly performing vaginal exams without their knowledge or consent when they underwent other medical procedures, including colonoscopies.

3. Plaintiffs also claim three facilities and their employees had knowledge of the misconduct and failed to stop or report it.

Dr. Matulis' former workplace, Charleston-based Day Surgery Center, is named as a defendant in six of the suits. Charleston Gastroenterology Associates is named as a defendant in 14, and Charleston Area Medical Center is named as a defendant in six. 

4. Lawmakers asked board members to explain why Dr. Matulis was allowed to retain his license when "there appears to be grounds to support a summary suspension and a full investigation" into the misconduct allegations.

5. The board's executive director and president will present their explanation during a legislative interim session between June 24 and 26.

"We feel certain the public is being protected because Dr. Matulis is not practicing medicine," Executive Director Mark Spangler told the Gazette-Mail.

6. Seven of the lawsuits against Dr. Matulis have been filed since January 1. Patients began filing lawsuits against him after police launched a criminal investigation into his conduct in early 2016.

Update: A Kanawha County grand jury charged Dr. Matulis with five counts of second-degree sexual assault and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, Charleston Gazette-Mail reports. They are all felony charges. Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case. As of June 4, The West Virginia Board of Medicine website still lists Dr. Matulis' license as "inactive," with an expiration date of June 30, 2019. 

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