March 16, 1996 in Nation/World

Amend Accused Of Moral Turpitude State Panel Could Pull License, But Not Boot Him From Office

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane County Coroner Dexter Amend was charged with unprofessional conduct Friday by a state board that could revoke his medical license.

The state Medical Quality Assurance Commission accused Amend of moral turpitude - conduct that reflects badly on the medical community and demeans the profession in the eyes of the public.

“They believe the behavior Dr. Amend has been demonstrating is really outrageous,” said Keith Shafer, the commission’s executive director.

The commission’s six-month investigation, initiated by Gov. Mike Lowry, found Amend caused families “great anguish” and made medical decisions that contradicted autopsy findings, according to a statement by the state Department of Health.

If Amend, a retired urologist, is found guilty, commissioners could do anything from scold him to yank his license.

Losing his medical license wouldn’t mean losing his position as coroner. County coroners are elected and needn’t have medical credentials.

At most, it’d mark the end of his volunteer work at the Union Gospel Mission Shelter for Men.

And state officials admit they’d be hard-pressed to take the license Amend has had for nearly half a century.

“I don’t know of any situation where a license has been revoked for moral turpitude,” said Joe Jimenez, health department spokesman.

Licenses are usually revoked only when patients are at risk, said Jimenez. “And his patients are dead.”

“It’s more a symbolic thing,” said governor’s spokesman Martin Munguia, “lending some legitimacy to what people have been saying about his actions.”

Amend will be invited to defend himself at a mid-April hearing in Seattle.

The commission’s charge comes a day after state Supreme Court justices tossed out a recall effort by Amend’s critics, saying the coroner hadn’t acted illegally last summer when he publicly said a girl who was murdered had been repeatedly sodomized in the past.

The commission, composed mostly of doctors, based its decision in part on the same case.

According to the statement of charges against Amend, an autopsy didn’t reveal whether Rachel Carver, 9, had been sodomized. “No reasonably prudent physician similarly situated would have reached this medical conclusion.”

Carver’s aunt said she was thrilled by the charge.

“I think what he did was very unprofessional,” said Diana Pollin. “It was very hard on me.”

Amend, 76, didn’t return telephone calls to his home and office.

His attorney, Martin Muench, said he hadn’t seen the statement of charges and wasn’t prepared to comment.

The commission also listed three other cases that it based its complaint on:

Amend quizzed the mother and brother of an 11-year-old fire victim about the dead boy’s sexuality. Jeffrey Himes was spending the night with a 15-year-old friend in a shed when it caught fire.

“Despite the fact the death was unquestionably the result of the fire, and that there was no evidence linking the death to sexual assault, (Amend) asked the mother whether her son was gay, whether he had a boyfriend or a girlfriend, whether he had sex with other boys, and whether he had sex with the 15-year-old boy,” the commission stated.

Amend was ordered by a judge to correct a death certificate after his diagnosis contradicted autopsy findings.

An autopsy showed Mario Lozada died in the Spokane County Jail from postural asphyxia with associated drug use, physical exertion and restraint application. Amend blamed the September death on irregular heartbeat, drugs and scar tissue. He said restraints and position “possibly” played a part.

After 16-year-old Kendra Grantham was shot in the head and killed, Amend asked her mother if Grantham had ever been sodomized.

When Mabel Grantham showed Amend a photograph of Kendra, a friend and a baby, the coroner asked if the baby had ever been sodomized, according to the statement of charges.

“It’s still really hard for me to think about that,” Grantham said Friday. “He shouldn’t ask questions like that at a time like that.”

Tom Heafey, a health department investigator, said he’s still looking into another complaint. “That one I’m just starting,” he said. “It could turn into additional charges.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo


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