Dr. Fisher and Mr. Hyde

He's been the Valley's most prominent AIDS doctor. But now Ken Fisher faces charges that threaten his reputation and his career.

But in February 1997, BOMEX received a complaint that Fisher was not following the order and was seeing patients without a chaperone present. Another complaint, filed in June, accused Fisher of engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior. BOMEX assigned investigator William Meidt to look into the allegations. (BOMEX would not comment about the ongoing complaint.)

Meidt gave his findings to the board at a meeting on September 26, 1997. Many people came forward to accuse Fisher of improper actions and comments, he reported. Former patients recounted that the doctor fondled one without a chaperone present, told another during a prostate exam, "Just pretend I'm a big black man," and masturbated a patient in his hospital room as he was waking, Meidt told the board.

Two of those who cooperated with BOMEX in the investigation repeated their complaints about Fisher to New Times.

Tory Mastrapasqua, a retired general contractor with AIDS, first began seeing Fisher around 1992, he recalls. Everything was fine, he says, until a relapse of meningitis put him in the hospital about three years ago.

Mastrapasqua was in a private room, waking from the effects of medication, when he realized Fisher was fondling him, he says.

"What I woke up to was being masturbated," Mastrapasqua says. "I asked him, 'What are you doing?' and he said, 'I'm examining you.'"

Mastrapasqua says he told Fisher to stop, and the doctor did. They did not discuss it further, though he saw Fisher about three or four more times, he says. He then found another doctor.

"This was actually before any of the allegations surfaced," Mastrapasqua says, explaining his decision not to file a complaint at the time. "I didn't want to screw with it, didn't want the hassle. . . . I just put it all behind me. I just decided, I'm not going to screw with it at that point in my life."

Mastrapasqua had heard sexual comments from Fisher in the office, but that didn't prepare him for what he says happened.

"Oh, yeah, you know, that didn't bother me, the sexual innuendoes," he says. "I'm gay, he's gay, that's just the way gay people talk to each other. I mean, my friends and I will talk to each other like that. But when my friends come over, we don't grope each other."

"You don't really know as a patient what is necessary and what part isn't," Mastrapasqua says. "It has to be pretty blatant. I mean, I knew being masturbated wasn't normal. I never saw it coming. I never saw any kind of violation before."

Even though Mastrapasqua didn't take action against Fisher at the time, he thinks people ought to know what happened, which is why he cooperated with BOMEX, and why, he says, he's speaking out now.

"I viewed it as being a kind of a sexual desire. To me, I thought it could be a kind of dominancy," he says. "I was drugged and not all there. I really don't think he intended for me to wake up. I really think it was for his own benefit."

Another man who says he came forward to help BOMEX is John, an HIV-positive man who began seeing Fisher in 1995 and stopped eight months ago. (Like others interviewed for this article, John asked that his real name not be used, for fear of problems if his HIV-positive status is revealed.)

"He was the only doctor I knew about who would treat HIV," John says. "And when you're scared you're going to die next week, you don't have a lot of options."

John says Fisher fondled him and made sexual comments during examinations several times.

"First of all, he would have me totally strip for an examination or an injection," he says. "And during one injection . . . he grabbed my penis, started stroking it, and asked me, 'If I kept doing this, would it get big and hard?'"

Similar incidents happened seven or eight more times, "to a differing degree," John says. He decided he'd have to put up with the fondling to have any chance of surviving his disease.

"I thought what I'd do is just tolerate it," he says. "I thought that this is where I'd get my best treatment."

John "finally came to my senses and dropped Fisher" after he confronted Fisher about the behavior in a phone call, he says.

Fisher didn't say anything in response, John recalls. He just remained silent. "But I've never received a bill," John says. "I find that very funny."

The incidents stayed with John for a long time, he says. "I felt--and this is probably going to seem funny, since a lot of people assume gay men feel like women anyway--but I felt like a woman. I felt very violated. I mean, here you are at his mercy. You're there for the right reasons, and then this happens. . . . I didn't think it would happen to me, and then it did. And then you wonder when it's going to happen again."

According to BOMEX's investigation, Fisher denied ever improperly touching any patients. However, the investigator told the board that Fisher admitted being in exam rooms with patients who were "self-stimulating."

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