ROCKLAND, Maine — The Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine has unanimously denied a psychiatrist who worked in the midcoast area for six months a permanent Maine license based on “egregious” actions he took while working in Maine.
James Cooper is a doctor licensed in Idaho, Indiana and Vermont, according to the board’s decision and order. From October 2008 through April 2009 Cooper worked filling in for regular psychiatrists at Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport and Mid-Coast Mental Health in Rockland. During that time, he saw a 12-year-old boy whose regular doctors diagnosed him as depressed and anxious and “easily upset about the least of things.”
When the boy and his mother went to their first and apparently only meeting with Cooper in November 2008, “Cooper did not appear to know why [the boy] had been referred to him or for what reason,” according to the board’s report, so the mother asked that they come back later when Cooper was able to talk with the boy’s regular doctors.
The board wrote that Cooper did not talk with the boy’s referring doctors or read the boy’s paperwork beforehand. But Cooper continued the session. The boy got increasingly upset throughout the 60-minute meeting, “verbalized that no one liked him and acknowledged that sometimes he wished he would die,” the board wrote in its decision. After this, Cooper recommended to the mother and the boy that the 12-year-old be hospitalized. This upset both the mother and son.
When the mother said she would not hospitalize the boy, Cooper reacted by saying he would have to report the situation to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services “which might take custody of [the boy] and his brother.”
“Dr. Cooper thought this comment perhaps would produce fear in [the mother] so that she would cooperate,” stated the board’s decision. This, in turn, “caused harm to [the boy],” the board concluded.
The board wrote in its decision made public in November that Cooper’s recommendation was not unreasonable, “except in conjunction with his threat to report the mother to DHHS” and decided in a 5-0 vote to reject his application for a permanent Maine license at its Oct. 12 meeting. It also voted to reprimand him for his “unprofessional conduct” stemming from a complaint filed about the incident with the 12-year-old boy. The reprimand will be on record in a national database, according to the board’s executive director, Randal Manning. Manning said Cooper is not allowed to work in Maine.
Manning said from the 265 complaints the board receives in a year, only about 20 end in discipline.