The state has indefinitely suspended the medical license of a 53-year-old Spokane Valley psychiatrist who had sex with two patients.
The Medical Quality Assurance Commission had suspended the license of Dr. Arthur Leritz even before holding a disciplinary hearing Dec. 23. On Friday, the commission announced that the suspension would continue indefinitely.
Leritz may ask the commission to lift the suspension in as soon as six months. First, he must undergo a psychological evaluation and mental health treatment, pay a $10,000 fine and reimburse one of the patients he had sex with for all fees paid since Jan. 1, 1996.
On Friday, Leritz said he was disappointed he couldn’t return to work. He said nothing inappropriate happened in his office. He said he should be allowed to work because with all the publicity, he wouldn’t dare do anything wrong.
“Everyone’s going to be hyper-alert,” Leritz said. “I’m obviously going to be squeaky clean.”
The commission found Leritz guilty of having sex with two female patients, of caring for them negligently, of moral turpitude and of misrepresenting facts during the investigation by the state Department of Health.
Leritz, who has been a Spokane psychiatrist since 1974, has said he had sex with the two women because he fell in love with them.
Leritz moved in with one patient in September 1990 and later became engaged to her.
He treated the second patient for 13 years before starting a sexual relationship with her last summer. She was in therapy for depression, stemming in part from incest.
“The commission finds his conduct particularly alarming, because of the ‘grooming’ of a patient who, as a victim of incest, had suffered from severe violations of boundaries and trust in the past,” the state’s report said.
The state board said Leritz engaged in severe unprofessional conduct.
In testimony, Leritz described himself as an “eclectic” therapist who uses methods such as psychodynamics, group therapy and humanistic psychology. He estimated about three-quarters of his patients are women.
He said Friday that he regularly treated about 300 to 400 patients before the state suspended his license.
No other complaints have been filed against Leritz, whose office is at 12012 E. Mission.
Leritz treated the woman who became his fiancee from 1976 to 1995, the state says.
Leritz said he stopped treating her in 1990 - before the two started a relationship.
The American Psychiatrist Association forbids sexual contact between a psychiatrist with a current or former patient.
Medical records show Leritz continued to treat the woman until 1995, the state said. He prescribed drugs for psychiatric treatment and pain until at least 1994. Leritz also wrote a three-page evaluation of the woman in 1991 and said he had just seen her in his office.
The second woman came to Leritz for help in 1984. In late 1996, he started cradling her during therapy, the state said.
After she bought a computer in January 1997, Leritz and the woman started sending each other electronic mail, which added up to 515 pages, the state said.
The messages started out with computer tips. Then they started referring to “the girls” and diminutive names for the woman’s “inner children.”
The messages became intimate and contained sexually suggestive remarks such as a romantic poem Leritz dedicated to the woman.
The two started a sexual relationship in June, and Leritz continued to treat the woman in his office. E-mail messages referred to the woman and her inner children as a family, and Leritz as “Doc Dad,” the father, the state said.
Leritz didn’t tell this patient about his relationship with his fiancee.
Leritz has said he had sex with the other woman because the two fell in love. He hoped the woman, a victim of incest, would experience their relationship as a “corrective emotional experience.”
On Friday, Leritz said he’d already filed a petition for reconsideration with the state medical board.
He declined to talk specifically about the allegations.
“As with anything of this nature, some are true,” Leritz said. “Some are false.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: REINSTATEMENT Before Leritz asks for his suspension to be lifted, he must undergo a psychological evaluation and mental health treatment, pay a $10,000 fine and reimburse one of the patients he had sex with for fees paid since Jan. 1, 1996.