The Washington State Medical Commission has suspended the license of Dr. John Hagmann, a Gig Harbor doctor who garnered millions of dollars in federal contracts to teach emergency medicine, for professional misconduct.
The alleged violations include authorizing students to inject each other with controlled substances, allowing them to perform invasive procedures on one another and exploiting course participants for sexual gratification.
The Washington suspension is based on a June decision by the Virginia Board of Medicine to revoke Hagmann’s license in that state.
After a hearing that included wrenching testimony from medical students who took his course, the Virginia board concluded that Hagmann engaged in “predatory and coercive conduct” with his students.
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Hagmann is a retired Army doctor whose business, Deployment Medicine International (DMI), trains military and civilian personnel in emergency trauma medicine.
The misconduct cited by the Washington commission and Virginia board occurred in Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina and Britain. Hagmann, in a statement to The Seattle Times, disputed the Virginia findings.
There are no allegations of misconduct that occurred in Washington state, according to Larry Berg, a Washington State Medical Commission attorney. But doctors whose licenses have been revoked in other states for actions that would be prohibited in Washington face suspension here.
Hagmann is under attack on another front: his use of pigs to help teach emergency-medicine courses.
In June, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a gruesome undercover video that showed pigs shot in the face and stabbed so that students could practice emergency medicine on them.
The Virginia medical-board investigation — and PETA’s undercover video — were first reported by Reuters News Service earlier this summer.
Since then, Hagmann has lost his biggest client: the U.S. government.
Deployment Medicine International has received federal contracts worth about $10 million since 2008 to conduct military and civilian training seminars. But the government has put a hold on granting any new contracts to Hagmann’s company.
Hagmann, in his written statement, vigorously defended his training as “instrumental in saving lives.” He said some procedures he teaches are taught the same way in other military special-operations and civilian courses.
Hagmann said he and his attorney were unable to attend the Virginia medical-board hearing because of prior commitments, and the board would not change the date of the proceeding. Therefore, Hagmann says he was denied the right to defend himself, question board experts and rebut allegations, and he plans an appeal.
Hagmann told Reuters that the “claims of sexual misconduct cause me the most anguish. Absolutely no ‘sexual gratification’ was involved and there is no evidence of such.”
Berg, the Washington State Medical Commission attorney, said the suspension was mandatory in Hagmann’s case because of the Virginia board’s revocation. Hagmann will have a right to defend himself in further disciplinary proceedings.
Hagmann has supporters who praise his teaching.
He says at least 100 physicians and medics deployed around the world have sent him supportive emails.
Randy Henderson, a Los Angeles attorney who is legal counsel to Deployment Medicine International, says, “John Hagmann is one of the most dedicated professionals I have ever met. … I am convinced that Dr. Hagmann is responsible (through training medics and physicians) for saving dozens, if not hundreds of GIs and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan who otherwise would have come home in body bags.”
Hagmann, despite his problems, continues to solicit new business.
On a company website that was taken offline last week, DMI advertised a series of “operational emergency medical” courses scheduled from late August through January. The website said the courses will be offered through another company that Hagmann is involved with, Integrated Training Resources,
Hagmann said he would not perform medical procedures during the training, but would participate through lectures and by offering first-aid training.
Hagmann, 59, is a graduate of the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, where he would later teach. He had an internship and an Army residency in Western Washington at what was then Fort Lewis.
Hagmann developed training courses while in the military. After his retirement, his business took off as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan put a new emphasis on emergency-medical training. Through the years, Hagmann continued to teach at the Uniformed Services University.
Complaints from students there led to a university investigation, and then a review by the Virginia Medical Board.
The board found that Hagmann’s conduct during military training programs represented a “danger to the health and welfare of his patients and the public.” Examples of misconduct cited by the board included:
▪ At Hagmann’s instruction, students practiced invasive procedures on each other, such as inserting catheters into the other’s genitals; the procedures were not performed under adequately sterile conditions.
▪ A student who had never performed a suture was told to practice on a wound of another person. When that task was poorly handled, Hagmann left the area in disgust, claiming he could not bear to watch.
▪ After drinking beer with a student, Hagmann performed a “pelvic trauma examination” that included extensive manipulation and photographing of the student’s genitals. Hagmann questioned the student about his sex life.
Hagmann’s extensive use of pigs to teach emergency medicine was not addressed in the Washington or Virginia findings.
But PETA for years has investigated Hagmann’s treatment of pigs, which are anesthetized and then typically inflicted with serious wounds that mimic the kind of trauma students might face in an emergency situation.
PETA has opposed the use of live animals in such training, instead championing the use of simulators, which have gained widespread acceptance in military and civilian medicine.
In a study published last year in Military Medicine, researchers found that students trained on the simulators showed equal levels of skill as those trained on live animals.
Hagmann, in his statement to The Seattle Times, said there is a place for simulators. But he said using only simulators is not sufficient, especially for training in special-operations combat settings.
“If you were critically injured in Afghanistan or Iraq, would you rather have a medic who has only done simulator training or one that has stopped real bleeding in a live tissue model?” Hagmann wrote.