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.

Jeff Ofstedahl, Echo's editor, doesn't disagree with HeatStroke's decision to cover the story. He wrote an editorial condemning the censorship of the store which banned the paper. But Echo has also run only one article on the actual charges--a column featuring an interview with Fisher after the story first appeared in HeatStroke. The column contains few specifics, and presents Fisher's only public response to the investigation.

Ofstedahl says he wants Fisher to keep practicing medicine. He says that if Fisher has crossed the line, there will have to be consequences, but he doesn't think his license should be revoked.

"Dr. Fisher has given an awful lot to this community. He's given his life and his work to this damned disease," Ofstedahl says. "I would hate to see all of the dedication get lost in all of this. We could still honor the commitment that this man has made to the community . . . without losing sight of other things."

Others agree. Arcelious Stephens, a board member of the Arizona AIDS project, says losing Fisher would be a "significant loss to the HIV/AIDS community.

"He doesn't need the negative publicity, and the community doesn't need the negative publicity," Stephens says. "I hope he can get this behind him and get his issues settled, because we need physicians to deal with this epidemic."

Fisher's accusers don't question his skill or his long history of serving AIDS patients. But Tory Mastrapasqua doesn't think Fisher should still be practicing.

"I think as a patient you just hand over your trust, and it absolutely doesn't deserve to be violated in any way," he says.

Another of Fisher's accusers puts it this way: "He's a doctor that needs to be in recovery, rather than practicing."

The public debate about Fisher is drawn in black-and-white lines, and reality, unfortunately, is never that simple. There is never just one side to any person. As Jeff Ofstedahl says, "In my opinion, he is a hero in our community, yes. But he's also a human being."

In the end, it's up to BOMEX to reconcile the hero and the human. And Ken Fisher is the only one who can answer for himself.

In his interview with Echo, Fisher says that he had a compulsion to work, and that his anger "got out of control." But he says he has been learning, through therapy, "to live my life in a healthy way."

"I hope to be able to show the community who I can be--who I truly am."

Contact Chris Farnsworth at his online address: cfarnsworth@newtimes.com

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