The state has suspended the license of an anesthesiologist accused of sexting and sending explicit selfies while on duty and in charge of anesthetizing patients.
The charges by the state’s Medical Quality Assurance Commission, which affect only his license, detail about two dozen examples of personal, often sexually explicit messages sent while Dr. Arthur Zilberstein, who works at Swedish Medical Center, was responsible for anesthetized patients.
The patients listed in the statement of charges were undergoing various surgeries, most often deliveries, including cesareans, but also for a cardiac-probe insertion procedure, a laparoscopic esophagus repair and a laparoscopic pediatric appendectomy, from April through August 2013.
The charges say those were just examples, taken from six days while Zilberstein was on duty.
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In one case — the esophagus repair — the state says Zilberstein exchanged 45 text messages with sexual innuendo in less than an hour and a half, with 21 initiated by Zilberstein.
Zilberstein, 47, worked for Physicians Anesthesia Service, which contracts with Swedish Medical Center, and Zilberstein is listed as a Swedish anesthesiologist.
His license was suspended last week. Zilberstein can’t practice in Washington state until charges are resolved; he has 20 days to respond and to request a hearing.
Zilberstein and his lawyer did not respond to requests for comment Monday, and Physicians Anesthesia Service officials were not available.
In a statement, Swedish said: “The safety of our patients is our number one priority. Once we learned that the State had suspended this physician’s medical license, the physician’s Medical Staff membership and privileges were immediately suspended. We just recently learned of these allegations and are conducting our own internal review of the physician, who is not directly employed by Swedish.”
Swedish spokesman Clay Holtzman said the medical center performs background checks on physicians it does not directly employ, and the doctors must resubmit information to be re-credentialed every two years. That process “looks for a variety of red flags,” Holtzman said.
The state also said Zilberstein prescribed controlled substances and other prescription drugs more than two dozen times without conducting diagnoses, evaluations or treatment plans.
In addition, the charges say he had sexual relations with a patient who had become his girlfriend — often in the hospital call room or doctors’ lounge — and prescribed her drugs. Some, or perhaps all, of the texts with sexual content were between Zilberstein and that patient, identified as “Patient Z” in the state’s charges.
In one text, sent with a selfie of his genitals, Zilberstein added: “Oh. And my partner walked in as I was pulling up my scrubs. I’m pretty sure he caught me,” the state alleges.
The state says Zilberstein misrepresented his surgical schedule to an investigator who was attempting to discover whether text messages were sent while he was responsible for patients’ anesthesia.
Carol M. Ostrom: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-2249. On Twitter @costrom