Bedside Matter

Outspoken abortionist Dr. Brian Finkel faces possible prosecution in multiple patient molestation case

Finkel suggests his accusers may have been manipulated by police as well as political opponents. "I do understand that, sometimes, law enforcement can be rather forceful in intimidating people into making statements that aren't true."

And he goes a step further: "I understand there are people in this community who don't like the fact that I'm an abortion provider. And I understand there are people under the color of authority who would like to make me unavailable for abortions. I've seen it in the past."


Phoenix abortionist Dr. Brian Finkel.
Phoenix abortionist Dr. Brian Finkel.
Phoenix abortionist Dr. Brian Finkel.
Doug Hoeschler
Phoenix abortionist Dr. Brian Finkel.

Brian Finkel has earned an excellent set of credentials since he first was licensed in Arizona as an osteopath in 1982.

He is board-certified as an obstetrician-gynecologist, and is a fellow with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and with the International College of Surgeons. A member of the United States Air Force Reserves, Finkel served as a flight surgeon during the Desert Storm operation in 1990.

But national and local anti-abortionists long have targeted the 51-year-old Finkel as their archenemy, more than any other area abortion doctor. His name and address is listed on Internet sites controlled by radical anti-abortionists whose ilk have murdered other abortion practitioners.

To protect himself, the doctor wears a loaded handgun on his hip when he's working.

"When you're a nationally prominent abortion provider such as myself," Finkel says, "you have to be more vigilant than others. When you're a lightning rod for public comment, you have to be more vigilant."

Still, he continues to embrace the limelight, and takes every opportunity to tell the world how poorly he regards most anti-abortionists. Finkel gets a ton of business, about 1,600 abortions last year, he says, or about 20 percent of all abortions performed in the state of Arizona. The doctor charges between $300 and $500 for an abortion.

"Thousands and thousands of abortions, and I get six women saying I'm pawing at them, huh?" he says. "Give me a break."

In the early and mid-1990s, right-to-lifers led by Phoenix attorney John Jakubczyk funded about a half-dozen medical malpractice lawsuits on behalf of Finkel abortion patients. Superior Court records indicate that the doctor prevailed in each suit.

Finkel also was cleared of wrongdoing in the sole complaint now available for public scrutiny at the osteopathic board.

Filed by a Phoenix woman in August 1998, that complaint claimed Finkel had performed an abortion using unsanitary surgical equipment. The board considered the complaint at a hearing, during which Finkel alleged a "persistent pattern of misconduct on the behalf of [board] staff in order to do immediate and permanent damage to me to earn a living." The board then voted to dismiss that complaint.

Finkel tells New Timesthat the state board has dismissed 28 of the other 29 complaints filed against him.

The remaining one was a 1997 "letter of concern" from the board to the doctor about wearing a gun while performing abortions.

Certainly, patients do make false allegations of sexual abuse against their doctors. But abuse does happen, and perhaps with greater frequency than many might suspect.

Dr. Thomas Gutheil, a Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor, recently wrote, "Although most of us would like to believe this is relatively rare in the medical practice . . . there is a tendency to underreport this kind of conduct. Its victims often fall into self-blaming and anger at themselves for not reacting quickly and leaving the scene."

Ann Marie Berger notes that 55 Arizona osteopaths list OB-GYN as a specialty. She says that no one has filed allegations of sexual misconduct against an OB-GYN since she was hired in 1995.

In 1999, a survey conducted by the American Medical Association's Council on Ethics and Judicial Affairs revealed that, of 1,891 doctors who responded, a remarkable nine percent admitted to sexual contact with one or more patients.

Though the survey didn't define "sexual contact," Phoenix sex-crimes detectives say that, in their experience, allegations of clitoral rubbing and breast fondling by doctors are rare.

One reason, says Dr. Joseph Buxer, medical director of the Women's Health Service at Good Samaritan Hospital, is that doctors always try to ensure they're not alone with patients during intimate examinations.

"A chaperone should always be present in such situations," says Buxer, who was speaking generally. "There are too many opportunities for a he-said, she-said situation to develop, whatever the motivation. You need someone to say that you weren't fooling around, that you were doing your normal job in a normal, appropriate way."

Adds Dr. Thomas Cole, dean of the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine: "We teach that, for your own safety as well as for the safety and comfort of your patients, have someone with you when you're performing an intimate examination or awakening someone after a procedure. How can you defend yourself otherwise?"

Finkel says he always tells his patients that he may inadvertently touch their clitorises, but only briefly and not for sexual purposes. But four OB-GYN doctors tell New Times that incidental contact with the clitoris during pelvic examinations is rare, and that forewarning patients about possible touching is unnecessary.

Detective Haduch broached the subject during his investigation with Kim Yedowitz, a supervising nurse at Scottsdale Healthcare/Osborn. His report says Yedowitz told him there is no medical reason to manipulate a clitoris during a pelvic exam.

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