Bad Medicine

He allegedly fondled and caressed patients against their will. AIDS patients. No wonder he is known as Doctor Scumbag.

The rumors had been swirling around Miami's AIDS community for at least two years: Dr. Homer L. Kirkpatrick, Jr., would do more for his patients than just treat their HIV infections. But the allegations of sexual misconduct seemed too outrageous to believe. Yet even after some patients began discussing in AIDS support groups their troubling encounters with Dr. Kirkpatrick, no one took action. Those who later stepped forward confessed that months passed before they could stop blaming themselves. Others had to be coaxed by friends into speaking with investigators.

Last week, after completing interviews with more than a dozen witnesses, including at least five alleged victims, a Miami-based investigator with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration filed a request for an emergency order to suspend Kirkpatrick's license to practice medicine. The investigator declines to discuss the case or even acknowledge its existence, noting that his department's policy is to refrain from comment about ongoing investigations. However, sources familiar with the probe say the request for an emergency order will likely be acted upon this week.

(Repeated attempts to contact Dr. Kirkpatrick directly for comment regarding this article proved unsuccessful. His Miami attorney, Mark A. Dresnick, was asked to forward to Kirkpatrick a series of written questions. Citing the confidentiality of investigations conducted by the Agency for Health Care Administration, Dresnick declined to cooperate or to confirm the existence of any investigation.)

One of the former patients interviewed by the state investigator agreed to describe to New Times his experiences with Kirkpatrick on condition that his true name not be used. For the purposes of this article, he shall be called Jordan. He is 39 years old, a husband and father, and a former drug user, which is how he suspects he contracted HIV, the virus believed to cause AIDS.

Jordan was referred to Kirkpatrick by a nursing assistant, and began seeing the doctor in 1991 at his Miami clinic on SW 37th Avenue. After several visits, Jordan says, he began to trust Kirkpatrick. They established a pattern: "Every examination would be a touching of the lymph nodes, sticking the tongue out, smiling, laughing, joking, and the examination, you know, of the rectal." Jordan winces at that last recollection.

The jokes about masturbation didn't bother him so much, Jordan allows, but he thought something was not quite right with the rectal examinations; the doctor would linger over them and ask Jordan if he felt sexually aroused. His concerns about Kirkpatrick's behavior increased dramatically in late 1992, after he was admitted to Mercy Hospital in Coconut Grove, where the doctor was a staff member. During Jordan's stay at the hospital, Kirkpatrick paid him a late-night visit. "He told me he needed some sperm," Jordan says, "and he left the cup on top of the table and then he came back. I honestly, deep down in my heart, I really honestly believed that I had to give that sperm A you know, for whatever reason it was, my prostate or whatever. I was so into trying to get the help I needed that I went on to try and put myself mentally in the position where I was having sex with my wife. And I couldn't. I couldn't. I couldn't do it.

"He came back into the room," Jordan continues, "and put his hands on me and started telling me, 'Just think about anything.' And he said, 'Think of your wife.' So I did, and he ejaculated me off."

After recalling the incident at a friend's office in Little Havana, Jordan pauses and takes a deep breath. "He let that stuff come all over my stomach, and that's what really pissed me off," he says. "Because then I said, 'How are you going to take it from my stomach? How are you going to put it in a cup?' And he says, 'I got something for it,' and he went and washed his hands. And I'm just lying there with the stuff on top of my stomach.

"He came back with a swab. He did like that," Jordan recounts, making a perfunctory wiping motion with his hand. "Just like nothing had happened. I mean, I mean, I didn't want to do any of those things, you know?"

Despite his misgivings, Jordan continued to see Kirkpatrick. This past June he was admitted to the Miami Heart Institute in Miami Beach for coronary surgery to alleviate a problem created by his earlier drug use. While still in the recovery room, he says, Kirkpatrick paid a visit. "I remember it was about 11:30, 12:00 that evening," Jordan recalls, tears welling in his eyes at the memory. "I woke up to find him under the bed sheet. And he was doing oral sex to me. I pushed him away and he went to the bathroom, sprayed something in his mouth, and turned around. He came back like nothing had happened."

Lying in his hospital bed, connected to an intravenous tube and still shocked by what had just happened, Jordan says he listened warily as Kirkpatrick promised to obtain for him immune globulin, an experimental and very expensive drug that some AIDS practitioners believe strengthens the immune system. In a seemingly unrelated aside, the doctor also talked about participating in a program that rewarded schoolchildren for good behavior. "I remember him telling me that he had just come from a benefit somewhere down south," says Jordan, "and that he had rewarded a lot of kids that evening. Right there I put two and two together." If he acquiesced to the doctor's sexual advances, Jordan concluded, he'd get the help he needed, including access to experimental drugs.

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