By Perrin Stein

Gillette News Record
Via Wyoming News Exchange

GILLETTE — A long-time Gillette physician has appealed the Wyoming Board of Medicine’s decision to suspend her license.

After a three-year investigation and a closed hearing in July, the board suspended Dr. Rebecca Painter’s license for five years.

The board found that Painter had acted improperly with a patient and the patient’s family by getting involved with the patient’s finances and business. Over many years, Painter became friends with her elderly patient, who asked Painter for help with personal matters, according the the board’s investigation. The patient’s family thought Painter’s involvement with the patient was unethical and asked the board to investigate.

The board also determined that Painter didn’t follow protocol when she stopped providing medical care to the patient after the board began its investigation.

In October, the board released a 275-page report summarizing its findings.

In her appeal, Painter asserts the the board was wrong to suspend her license in July before publishing the report.

Painter goes on to say that the report doesn’t include enough evidence to support her license suspension. She also said the July hearing was illegal because she was denied her right to due process and because only two of six board members attended the hearing, which was the basis for her suspension.

Her appeal goes on to contest the contents of the board’s report.

Investigators examined four areas where Painter may have acted improperly: with her patient, with her patient’s family, through unnecessary medical services and payments and in incorrectly ending her medical relationship with the patient.

In looking into unnecessary medical services and dubious payments, investigators found some evidence for the violation but didn’t include it as one of the reasons for sanctioning Painter.

Painter’s appeal said that by mentioning the violation in one section of the report, but not addressing it in the list of sanctions, it is unclear whether the violation factored into the board’s final disciplinary decision.

Painter asserts that the board’s job is to uphold the Medical Practice Act, and because investigators looked into and disciplined her for actions unrelated to that act, they acted outside their legal purview.

The report included testimony from two experts on whether Painter acted unethically toward the patient by doing things like estate planning and hiring ranch employees for her. The experts contradicted each other, and the board found the testimony of the expert who said Painter acted unethically to be more convincing.

In her appeal, Painter said the legal standard the board used to evaluate the two experts wasn’t applicable to the subject of medical ethics, and therefore, using their testimony to make decisions about her conduct was illegal, according to court documents. She also said the expert testimony addressed standards beyond what is outlined in the board’s policies, forcing her to adhere to ethical requirements she hadn’t known existed.

To explain its findings, the board outlined several areas in which Painter allegedly acted improperly toward her patient, one of which was through sexual misconduct.

Painter contests the sexual misconduct finding is wrong of sexual misconduct that is “overly broad” in that it doesn’t require sexual contact, according to court documents.

Further, Painter said she was never accused of sexual misconduct.

In addition to a license suspension, Painter has to attend a couple of classes, pay a $15,000 fine and pay $78,526, or half the board’s investigation costs, by the end of January. She said the requirement that she pay the costs of the investigation is illegal, according to court documents.

Painter filed the case against the two board investigators, as well as the entire Board of Medicine. The board’s lawyer recently filed a motion for District Judge Thomas Rumpke to dismiss the board as part of the appeal. The board also asked that most of the board’s records of its proceedings with Painter be confidential.

Rumpke will address the motions at a hearing March 26.

Previously, the state Board of Medicine placed sanctions on Painter in 1999, but those sanctions were dismissed after Painter filed a petition with the court, according to court documents.