CA Medical Board Places Psychiatrist Ronald Onkin on Probation for Sexual Misconduct

November 22, 2018

On November 21, 2018, the Medical Board of California placed psychiatrist Ronald H. Onkin, of Encino, California, on probation for four years for sexual misconduct, gross negligence and repeated negligent acts relative to his conduct with two female patients.

The Board’s Accusation provides the details:

Patient K.H.

K.H. saw Onkin from November 2013 thru July 2014. She was seeing him mostly for medications and for bipolar disorder. The first session was about 45 minutes, then the rest were approximately 20 minutes long. During the first few visits she felt comfortable with Onkin, but things began to change around the third or fourth visit.

K.H. described Onkin as disheveled and his office very disorganized. She said he avoided eye contact with her and he actually fell asleep during one of their sessions.

Early on, Onkin prescribed a medication with a horrible aftertaste. K.H. read reviews from other patients who complained the medication "tastes like ass." When K.H. complained to Onkin and said it "tastes like ass," he asked her how she knows, and “whose ass had she been licking"?

During a few sessions Onkin asked if she masturbated.

On about the fifth visit, Onkin attempted to give the patient a side hug. She was facing the door and when he tried to hug her, she said “no.”

During their 10th session, as she was leaving, Onkin reached out and grabbed her breasts and juggled them up and down. The patient was shocked and pushed him away.

K.H. immediately called her long time psychologist, Dr. G., and then she filed her complaint with the Medical Board.

During the Board’s investigative interview, Onkin explained that his initial diagnosis of K.H. was major depression but then he changed it to bipolar II disorder. He also claimed that he thought she suffered from borderline personality disorder, however, there was nothing in his notes about that. He claimed that she made this complaint because of her borderline personality disorder.

The Medical Board’s investigation found that there was nothing in K.H.’s records about borderline personality disorder or how Onking even made that assessment, other than her crying about a breakup. There was no outline for the treatment of K.H.’s alleged borderline personality disorder in the patient record.

Patient J.R.

J.R. saw Onkin for depression and alcohol abuse. At the same time she continued to see her regular therapist.

J.R. had a long history with substance abuse but she wanted to get sober. Onkin prescribed Antabuse. It worked well for her and she has been sober ever since. He also prescribed Brintellix to treat her depression.

One day at the end of a session, J.R. initiated a hug, and they concluded many of their sessions with a hug. In July 2015, she was seeing Onkin every two weeks, but in November 2015 it was just once a month.

Onkin started asking her about sexual side effects even though she told him that she and her husband were not having sex. He asked if she masturbated and what she used. He asked if her husband could maintain an erection.

He told her she "has everything in the right place," and "if I was single I would really like to go out with you."

By 2016, Onkin was sliding his hands up and down her back, and on the second to last visit slid his hands to her butt and on the last visit actually squeezed her butt. Her last visit was in June 2016.

During the Board’s investigative interview, Onkin stated that the patient suffered from depression, alcoholism and borderline personality disorder. He denied touching her butt and claimed she initiated the hug at the last session. He never told her of his assessment of borderline personality disorder.

Onkin did not contest the charges, but acknowledged that the Board could establish a factual basis for each of the charges and that if proven at a hearing, would constitute grounds for disciplinary action.

In 1982, Jean Epperson Moss, a nurse and former patient of Onkin’s, sued the psychiatrist for engaging her in a sexual relationship and then having her committed to a state psychiatric facility. Moss died in mid-1984 from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, which she carried out on the front lawn of Onkin’s Bel-Air home.

Source: Paul Wilner, “The short, tragic life of a disturbed nurse,” Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Sept. 1, 1984 and Decision in the Matter of the Accusation Against Ronald H. Onkin, M.D., Physician's and Surgeon's Certificate No. C 27700, Case No. 800-2014-007056, Medical Board of California, November 21, 2018.

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