Medical board permanently pulls pediatrician's license
Posted March 20, 2009 9:21 a.m. EDT
Updated March 20, 2009 5:42 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — The state medical board Friday permanently inactivated the license of nationally known pediatrician and author Dr. Mel Levine, saying he improperly conducted genital examinations on five patients between 1987 and 2006.
Levine, whose lawyer said he has always denied doing anything improper and still does, had agreed to the consent order to close the matter, and the medical board approved it in minutes. The term the board uses is that Levine's license is "on inactive status permanently." That differs legally from revocation.
"The medical board proceeding has been, and would continue to be, a major distraction with his primary mission of helping individuals who having learning disabilities and developmental problems," Levine's attorney, Alan Schneider, said after the hearing.
Elizabeth Kuniholm, an attorney representing the patients, said they were pleased Levine won't be able to examine patients anymore.
Levine is widely known for his work on developmental and learning issues for children, working through an appointment in pediatrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his non-profit All Kinds of Minds organization, which has worked with school teachers to help them understand different learning styles.
He had voluntarily moved his license to inactive status last year while the medical board investigated the claims.
In laying out the background of the case in the consent order, the board referred to the patients as "A through E" and did not identify them by gender.
"The genital examinations performed by Dr. Levine ... were not medically indicated and were either not documented in the medical record or, if documented, failed to conform" to medical practice, the order states. They were done "outside the presence of a chaperone, parent or guardian," it states.
The order states that Levine maintains "that all physical and neurological examinations ... were medically indicated and were conducted consistent with standard medical practice in identifying physical abnormalities that might cause, contribute to or complicate the patient's developmental difficulties."
Schneider said Levine “emphatically denies the allegations," but he wants to move on and continue his research.
"He emphatically denied them at the time, he emphatically denies them today, and he will emphatically deny them to his last breath,” Schneider said of the allegations. "People are going to believe what they want to believe. The board has received close to hundreds of letters from parents, from educators (and) from former patients, as well as parents praising his many contributions and extolling the revolution and influence he's had on education as well as pediatrics."
The board said it accepted the order reluctantly because Levine can still work in education, but it acknowledged that is not in its jurisdiction.
"This board is conflicted in that this consent order does not impose a reprimand or other verbal discipline," board president Dr. George L. Saunders III said. However, "he will not practice here or anywhere ever again."
Levine has retired from UNC as a professor of pediatrics and has no privileges to practice there.
He had been a major figure in the university's Center for Development and Learning, which is now part of UNC's Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. He is no longer listed as part of the institute, however.
Schneider said Levine, who lives north of Durham, is working with parents of children with developmental disabilities through a new Web-based institute called Bringing up Minds.
Kuniholm said most of the victims don't mind if Levine is allowed to continue developmental research. They just want to keep him from examining patients to ensure no one is abused in the future, she said.
"The concern is that he not have access to children, particularly boy children to do a physical exam," she said. "Dr. Levine is certainly a very knowledgeable man and has a lot to offer, as long as he's not given an opportunity to do this kind of harm."
Several former patients in Boston have sued Levine. There are no pending suits against him in North Carolina.