Bedside Matter

Editor's Note: The names of the women who filed police reports against Dr. Brian Finkel have been changed to protect their privacy.

Carol awoke in her Phoenix home on the morning of March 1, 2000, dreading the ordeal ahead.

"I'm a grown adult," she says, "and I had made an informed, big-adult decision with my boyfriend. But it wasn't going to be easy."

The single mother, who's in her mid-30s, had decided to have an abortion. She made an appointment with the Metro Phoenix Women's Clinic, owned and operated by Dr. Brian Finkel. One of the nation's most visible abortion doctors, the outspoken Finkel long has been a lightning rod in the bitter debate over a woman's right to choose.

But Carol says she wasn't concerned about the philosophical pros and cons of abortion. She just wanted to have the procedure done safely, so she could get back to work as an x-ray technician at a local hospital.

Carol's boyfriend came with her to the clinic, where she signed in under her maiden name (she's divorced) to protect her privacy. Her boyfriend stayed in the waiting area when she stepped into the clinic's inner sanctum.

It was in the latter, Carol says, where Brian Finkel sexually abused her, both before and after performing the abortion.

She says Finkel repeatedly rubbed her clitoris during a pre-operation pelvic exam, after alerting her that he might touch it. Carol also claims the doctor instructed her to keep her breasts bared during the abortion, which she says she doesn't remember because of an injection Finkel gave her.

Carol says she awoke after the abortion to find Finkel fondling her breasts in a manner that, to her, was sexual, not medical.

She says a female medical assistant was in the room when Finkel allegedly touched her clitoris, but that the doctor was alone with her when he fondled her breasts.

Carol says she immediately told her boyfriend what had happened, then called Phoenix police from Finkel's parking lot. Phoenix sex-crimes detective Arthur Haduch met with her later that day, then spent the next few months investigating the case.

"[Finkel had] both hands on either breast, cupping them, fondling them and rubbing/massaging them in a circular motion," Haduch wrote in a report that summarized the allegations.

The investigation included a May 12, 2000, interview with Finkel. According to Haduch's report, "I told Finkel of . . . the reported manipulation of the clitoris. Finkel states that is not happening . . . I tell Finkel that a woman would know when her clitoris is touched, and what is proper and what is not."

The doctor steadfastly denied wrongdoing, as he did in a recent interview with New Times.

"I don't like my integrity being challenged," Finkel told the newspaper September 4. "I've gone out of my way to be hyper-vigilant, to protect myself from specious allegations such as this one and others."

The "others" include five women who have made similar allegations of sexual misconduct against the doctor to police, dating back to 1991. One of the women -- a 24-year-old Phoenix resident we'll call Julie -- told police in early 2000 that Finkel had rubbed her clitoris, then licked her genitals briefly during a pre-abortion examination.

Though none of the previous complaints against the doctor had resulted in prosecution, Detective Haduch concluded in a June 2000 report that, "Based on the information, Dr. Finkel has established a history of molesting his patients during his abortion procedures."

The detective recommended that the Maricopa County Attorney's Office prosecute Brian Finkel on charges of sexual assault and sexual abuse. That office assigned its own investigator, Mark Stribling, to look into the case.

But Stribling, a retired Phoenix homicide cop, was swamped last year working on another case involving an abortion doctor, John Biskind. Biskind was convicted in February of manslaughter in the 1998 death of a Phoenix woman after her late-term abortion at the now-defunct A-Z Women's Center.

Stribling investigated the Finkel case when he could, and conducted his own interviews with Carol and other alleged victims. Carol says Stribling told her months ago that he'd give his full attention to Brian Finkel after Biskind's sentencing -- which was in May.

Still, prosecutors haven't sought a grand jury indictment against the doctor.

"We are actively following up on a submittal from Phoenix police [Detective Haduch] concerning allegations regarding Dr. Finkel," Stribling says. "That's all we're going to say publicly."

Finkel tells New Times he's stunned that authorities still are investigating him. He blames disgruntled ex-employees, the anti-abortion movement, and confused patients for what he says is a grossly unjust situation. The doctor points out that his record is clean, despite complaints and lawsuits that ex-patients have filed against him at the Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners, and in Maricopa County Superior Court.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin