The sexual misconduct of a former Charleston doctor was so severe that employees at Charleston Area Medical Center attempted to predict who would be his next victim, according to statements employees made during interviews in a civil lawsuit against the doctor.
Attorneys representing former patients of Steven Matulis are seeking a psychological evaluation as part of a sexual misconduct lawsuit against the former gastroenterologist who was convicted of one count of sexual abuse in October.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom sentenced him to spend between one and five years in prison. He will have to register as a sex offender when he is released from prison.
CAMC employees’ statements given during depositions in the case show Matulis had an “infatuation with sex and power,” calling his mental condition into question, Ben Salango, of Preston & Salango LLC in Charleston, said in the motion.
In response, Matulis’ attorney, Isaac Forman, of Hissam Forman Donovan & Ritchie PLLC, said Matulis’ mental or physical health has not been at-issue in the civil case or in the criminal case against him. He also said the plaintiffs don’t specify a particular examination, test, condition or diagnosis they want applied to Matulis.
“The motion makes passing reference to an ‘infatuation with sex and power,’ which is not a test, condition, or diagnosis, and bears no reference to any recognized psychiatric diagnosis under ... the standard for psychiatric assessment and diagnosis in that profession,” Forman said.
During their depositions with attorneys in the case, CAMC employees said nurses and surgical techs would put a star next to the names of female patients whom they believed would be sexually abused by Matulis.
“This served as an alert system for nurses to be on the lookout,” Salango wrote in the motion.
Matulis sexually harassed female employees, asking them about their favorite sex positions and if they performed certain sexual acts as well as commenting on female employees’ breasts and asking them about their personal grooming habits, Salango said in the motion.
Employees also said Matulis took photos of patients’ tattoos while they were under anesthesia and he would clean and wipe patients after colonoscopy procedures as means to “discreetly abuse female patients.” The employees said Matulis was the only doctor in CAMC’s endoscopy suite to clean patients.
Matulis also put his finger in patients’ vaginas during procedures, one employee said during deposition.
Matulis’ sexual abuse conviction stemmed from his fondling of one patient’s breasts while she was under anesthesia.
In a footnote in the motion, Salango said one nurse said Matulis’ misconduct worsened after Jan. 1, 2013, when CAMC doctors began using Propofol to sedate patients. Propofol renders patients completely unconscious, as opposed to methods of conscious sedation that had previously been used.
In his response, Forman noted that the same jury that convicted Matulis of sexual abuse also acquitted him of two counts of sexual assault.
“The reason — conveniently omitted by the Plaintiffs — is that every single expert who testified at Dr. Matulis’ trial acknowledged that it is appropriate and necessary under certain circumstances to perform limited vaginal examinations during the course of a colonoscopy,” Forman said. “It is for this reason that Dr. Matulis was acquitted of every single allegation that he conducted unnecessary vaginal examinations.”
The trial in the case is scheduled to begin April 6, 2020, before Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey.
Matulis is incarcerated in Stevens Correctional Center in McDowell County, and his projected release date is July 6, 2020, according to the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation website.
Ben Salango is an investor in ETBN Group LLC, a subsidiary of HD Media, which owns the Charleston Gazette-Mail.