The State Medical Board of Ohio voted Wednesday to permanently revoke the license of Dr. Arun Aggarwal, a former physician at Dayton Children’s Hospital accused of improperly touching the breasts of two female patients.
The board also criticized the response of officials at the hospital, where Aggarwal practiced as a pediatric gastroenterologist. Medical staff there “dragged their feet” in investigating and disciplining him, said board member Dr. Richard Edgin.
Medical board members said factors in their decision to revoke Aggarwal’s license included that both alleged victims who didn’t know each other shared very similar stories. They also said Aggarwal allegedly resisted using chaperones, and that he didn’t document the examination in medical records, undermining his claims that what he did was medically justified.
“Why would one not document the exam? To hide the fact it took place. Why hide it? Presumably because it’s inappropriate that it occurred,” said board member Dr. Michael Schottenstein.
Board member Dr. Anita Steinbergh chided Aggarwal directly about not providing gowns to the patients.
“I find what you did to be both crude and very, very vulgar,” she said.
Dayton Children’s CEO Deb Feldman, in her first interview since the Aggarwal case became public, said she supported the medical board’s decision.
“Could we have handled this better? Absolutely,” Feldman said. “Frankly our process failed us.”
She said the hospital struggled to determine whether they were dealing with inappropriate conduct or a misunderstanding, and in light of the incident they developed more stringent policies to more decisively address such allegations.
“There is nothing more important to us at Dayton Children’s than the health and safety of our kids. Nothing,” she said.
Aggarwal didn’t speak during Wednesday’s medical board meeting. Afterwards, his attorney, James Fleischer, said they intend to appeal the decision.
“We respectfully disagree with the decision of the board and intend to pursue the matter as permitted in the courts,” he said.
Fleischer spoke on behalf of Aggarwal before the board’s vote, questioning the motives of the alleged victims and questioning why they didn’t come forward sooner.
“We submit to the board that this a grave and manifest injustice if this report and recommendation is followed,” he said.
The board’s vote followed the report and recommendations of a medical board hearing examiner released in March.
Board member Dr. Andrew Schachat asked whether suspension and remediation should be considered. Other board members said they would have considered it if Aggarwal admitted he did something wrong and sought remediation, which they said he has not.
All board members voted for permanent revocation, except three board members who abstained.
Aggarwal practiced at Dayton Children’s under a contract with the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. He was hired in 2013 and the complaints about him by parents of two teen patients occurred in 2014.
After each incident, a hospital employee pushed for administrators to report him to authorities, but was told it wasn’t necessary. Instead, the administrators created a chaperoning policy for Aggarwal, according to an investigation by the Dayton Daily News. The employee reported it on her own, leading to a nearly yearlong investigation by Dayton police that ended in no charges being brought against Aggarwal.
Aggarwal was suspended and later terminated during this investigation, and is currently suing Wright State for wrongful termination.
Schottenstein criticized how the hospital handled the complaints.
“If you have to create a policy to guard against a specific doctor, randomly perpetrating on underage girls, I think that common sense dictates that this doctor should not be practicing in the first place,” Schottenstein said. “And I think that common sense, as well as duty under the law, dictate this doctor needs to be reported to the medical board, and to the appropriate legal authorities.
And if you have to have meetings about whether or not somebody needs to be reported, I would say by definition one should go ahead and report it.”
STORIES FROM OUR YEAR-LONG SERIES:
LICENSE REVOKED:Doctor’s license revoked after accusations of improper touching
HUBER HEIGHTS:Doctor accused of sexual advances toward 13 patients
PRACTICING AGAIN:Dayton doctor suspended for two years allowed to practice again