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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Spokane physician assistant’s license suspended, fired following allegations of sexual misconduct

A Spokane physician assistant has had his license suspended by state regulators after allegations he took sexual advantage of a vulnerable patient over several months in 2021.

Joseph A. Sutton, who was first licensed in the state in October 2015, had his license immediately suspended by the Washington Medical Commission last month, according to a news release. Sutton also immediately lost his job with Family Care Spokane, previously Excelsior Family Medicine, after divulging the contact with the patient.

“Family Care Spokane is saddened to learn about the details of this investigation with the bulletin released today,” Sheri Farnsworth, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement Wednesday night. “The behavior described in the report is antithetical to core ethics and standards of the patient-provider relationship. The provider under investigation was terminated immediately after disclosing they developed a personal relationship with a patient. FCS maintains a zero-tolerance position on such relationships.”

A statement of charges alleges Sutton began treating a woman for multiple mental illnesses in August 2018. During their three-year patient-client relationship, Sutton is accused of multiple sexual acts, including multiple occasions in which he “used violent force to initiate sexual contact,” according to the WMC charging statement. The contact occurred during June, July and August 2021.

The woman had a history of sexual trauma, depression and suicide attempts, according to the commission.

No criminal charges had been filed in Spokane County Superior Court against Sutton as of Thursday morning.

The allegations also include practices below the standard of care and boundary violations. That included texting “abusive comments” to the patient and permitting her to be present in rooms when he conducted virtual appointments, according to charging documents. He is also accused of making “misleading statements” in response to investigators’ inquiries about the case.

Sutton’s license has been suspended pending further action of the Washington Medical Commission.

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