TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has overturned the state medical board's revocation of a doctor's license over her referrals of young patients for late-term abortions.
Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis ruled that State Board of Healing Arts failed to show that mental health exams provided by Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus in 2003 were inadequate. In a ruling that became public Monday, the judge ordered the board to reconsider its sanctions.
The board in 2012 revoked Neuhaus' license to provide charity care over her exams of 11 patients, ages 10 to 18, nine years earlier. The board had ratified the decision of a hearing officer, who concluded Neuhaus failed to meet accepted standards of medical care because her records didn't show that she had done thorough exams.
Neuhaus, from the small town of Nortonville about 30 miles north of Lawrence, provided second opinions in 2003 that the late Dr. George Tiller needed under Kansas law to legally terminate the pregnancies. Tiller, who was among a few U.S. physicians known to perform abortions in the final weeks of pregnancy, was shot to death in May 2009 by a man professing strong anti-abortion views.
Theis said in his order it was clear that Neuhaus' record keeping fell below "any reasonably required standard of care for their maintenance." But the judge also said the hearing officer's conclusion that Neuhaus provided inadequate care rested "solely on an inference" from problems with the doctor's records.
"In this Court's view, such an inference is too slim, too frail and too conjectural to support any of his conclusions reached beyond a breach of adequate record keeping," Theis wrote in his 84-page decision.
The board can either take Neuhaus' case up again or appeal Theis' decision to the state Court of Appeals. Executive Director Kathleen Selzler Lippert said it would have a special meeting within a month to decide what action to take. She declined to comment further.
Neuhaus had argued that she had provided adequate care but limited what she included in her records to protect patients' privacy amid state investigations of abortion providers, including Tiller. Bob Eye, one of her attorneys, said the ruling is "pretty consistent" with her arguments.
At the time the board revoked her limited license, Neuhaus was hoping to return to having a full, active license in Kansas. Eye said even after Theis' order, she'd still have to file paperwork with the board to be licensed again.
But Eye said, "We are very happy about the outcome."
The case stemmed from a 2006 complaint by Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser for the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue. Abortion opponents had scrutinized Neuhaus for years and raised questions about her activities.
"If she's ever allowed to practice medicine again, it will be a travesty," said Sullenger
Neuhaus had performed abortions in Wichita and Lawrence but stopped in 2002. She also provided second opinions for Tiller from 1999 to 2006.
The complaint before the board centered on how Neuhaus concluded that each of the 11 patients had serious mental health issues and that an abortion was advisable. Neuhaus' reports for Tiller, compiled with a "PsychManager Lite" computer program, were no more than five pages.
Eye said the Operation Rescue complaint showed "a lack of understanding" about medical standards of care, and the allegations shouldn't have been pursued by the board's staff.
"This is part of a long pattern of conduct by the anti-choice clique," Eye said. "It sends a signal that providers should avoid making these kinds of services available, or they'll face these kinds of complaints."
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