Crime

Doctor charged with sex crimes at Bremerton clinic is at center of women’s lawsuit

Nine women have sued the United States, alleging they were sexually abused by a doctor at a government-funded clinic in Bremerton.

The civil case, filed Sept. 27 in U.S. District Court, follows criminal charges brought against Dr. Darren Chotiner and the suspension of his license to practice medicine.

During the alleged abuse, he worked at the Wheaton Way Medical Clinic, which is part of the nonprofit Peninsula Community Health Services.

The nonprofit’s chief executive officer, Jennifer Kreidler-Moss, said in a statement: “PCHS is unable to comment on pending litigation but will continue to cooperate in the investigation of any and all claims.”

Among allegations in the suit, which seeks unspecified damages, are that Chotiner:

▪ Inappropriately pushed up a patient’s skirt, pulled away her underwear and massaged her thigh and buttocks during an August 2014 appointment — after she said she had knee pain.

▪ Gave inappropriate breast exams, sometimes without gloves; one lasted between 10 and 15 minutes.

▪ Inappropriately massaged groins and buttocks after pulling down patients’ pants and underwear.

▪ Had a patient undress in front of him.

▪ Made suggestive comments, and spoke inappropriately about sex with patients, including about his own sex life.

▪ Massaged patients while standing between their legs.

The complaint didn’t provide a time frame for each allegation, but lists some as having happened from August to November 2014.

The suit says Peninsula Community Health Services “had medical standard practice procedures in place requiring its providers to routinely offer a chaperone to female patients when performing intimate examinations or procedures.”

The women also allege Chotiner had inappropriate contact with a patient in 2011, leading to an agreement that he would not give women primary care without a medical assistant in the room.

Neither the policy nor the agreement was enforced, the women say.

The state Department of Health suspended Chotiner’s license in December 2014 because of the alleged abuse. He also was arrested that month.

The 48-year-old is charged with two counts of second-degree rape and five counts of indecent liberties, and awaits trial in Kitsap County Superior Court.

His attorney in the criminal case did not return a News Tribune call.

The lawsuit identifies the nonprofit’s clinics as Federally Qualified Health Centers — health-care providers that get some funding via the federal Health Resources & Services Administration to work in underserved areas, according to that agency’s website.

The administration is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which did not return a News Tribune request for comment about the lawsuit.

Public tax records show Peninsula Community Health Services got $1,575,809 in government grants in 2014, about 10 percent of its revenue.

That also apparently is the year Chotiner left the organization; The records list a $15,029 severance payment for him.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

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