- Associated Press - Thursday, July 20, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A Wisconsin appeals court ruled Thursday that an allergist who allegedly had inappropriate sexual contact with three female patients was properly fired, a decision that the doctor’s attorney said could have broad implications across the state.

The 4th District Court of Appeals overturned a Dane County circuit court’s ruling in favor of Dr. Don Bukstein, who had worked for Madison-based Dean Health Systems which has more than 60 clinics in southern Wisconsin. The lower court had ruled that Dean breached its contract with Buckstein when it fired him in 2012 after he had worked there since 1981.

Bukstein was awarded $2.2 million by a Dane County jury in 2016 after determining he was improperly fired because he wasn’t given due process to fight the allegations in accordance with his contract. Bukstein had alleged that his contract required him to be able to review details of the complaints, cross-examine the patients and have an attorney present to argue the evidence brought against him.

Dean appealed and the appeals court said Bukstein’s lawsuit should have been rejected because the at-will provision in his contract allowed him to be fired without cause at any time.

Bukstein’s attorney, Lester Pines, said he would likely appeal the decision to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. And he cautioned that the decision could have a much broader impact that just this case because it could render contracts doctors have with large health systems “completely meaningless.”

The decision clears the way for group health systems to tell doctors that investigations into improper conduct will be conducted in a certain way, but then not follow those guidelines, Pines said.

“That’s a very, very dangerous decision, very dangerous precedent for every physician in the state,” Pines said. “There’s no remedy for a physician who is alleged to have engaged in improper conduct and isn’t allowed to participate in accordance with the due process they’re afforded.”

Kim Sveum, a spokeswoman for Dean, had no comment on the ruling.

According to the ruling, three female patients alleged that Buckstein had touched them in a sexual manner during the course of an evaluation or treatment.


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

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