Maryland Yanks License of Psychiatrist Robert Schnitzlein; Sexually Exploited Vulnerable Patient

May 11, 2022

A psychiatrist surrendered his license to practice medicine after violating sexual misconduct regulations at an Eastern Shore hospital in 2019, according to documents filed with the Maryland Board of Physicians.

Former psychiatrist Robert Schnitzlein, M.D., surrendered his license on Tuesday, May 3, because he is no longer able to comply with the requirements of his suspension due to a medical condition preventing him from practicing medicine, according to a letter he submitted to the board. The Board of Physicians had previously suspended his license in January 2020 due to concerns about his ability to practice safely.

According to the documents, Schnitzlein completed residency training in adult and adolescent psychiatry and neurology and practiced as a psychiatrist in his career. He was not board certified in any medical specialty.

In February 2020, Schnitzlein was officially charged with violating the board’s sexual misconduct regulations in connection with his time working as a locum tenens, or temporary substitute, physician at a hospital on the Eastern Shore from January to May 2019.

The Board of Physicians documents did not name the specific facility Schnitzlein worked at, but a civil negligent tort case filed in the Dorchester County Circuit Court in December 2021 named him and University of Maryland Shore Regional Health Inc. as defendants. It’s not clear if the case and the 2019 incident are related.

The charge stemmed from a June 2019 complaint to the board from a psychologist reporting that her patient had discussed an intimate relationship between her and Schnitzlein, which occurred soon after he had treated her at the hospital for serious mental health issues earlier that year.

According to the documents, the patient had been involuntarily admitted to the hospital in January 2019 for serious mental health issues. Schnitzlein was her treating physician and she was discharged after four days. Information from the patient’s records did not indicate any follow-up treatment with Schnitzlein.

In her complaint to the board, the psychologist described text messages she had reviewed between her patient and Schnitzlein and learned that the two discussed meeting at his hotel. Based on conversations with her patient, the psychologist learned that she had met up with Schnitzlein multiple times at the hotel for “treatment, swimming, conversation, and sex,” according to the documents.

In July 2019, the board received a complaint from the patient who alleged having a personal relationship with Schnitzlein after he had treated her in the hospital. In her complaint, she said that Schnitzlein suggested they exchange personal phone numbers to communicate after her discharge. She also described similar encounters to what the psychologist reported, including swimming and multiple sex acts.

According to the documents, the patient said that as she recovered, she began to understand the gravity of Schnitzlein’s behavior. She began having negative flashbacks to her encounters with him, prompting her discussion of the relationship with her psychologist.

The board launched an investigation in June 2019 and interviewed the psychologist and patient, along with reviewing patient records, text messages exchanged between the patient and Schnitzlein and six voicemail recordings that he left for the patient in August 2019.

In an interview with the board, the psychologist noted that her patient expressed guilt for not resisting the relationship with Schnitzlein and questioned blaming herself for it. The psychologist also described her patient as “incredibly vulnerable” and “not in a position to make a decision as to whether this was a good relationship or not.”

In her interview with the board, the patient said she felt “lucky” to have Schnitzlein as her psychiatrist because he alluded to her being “sort of a special patient.” He offered to exchange numbers so she could update him on her status, and the patient agreed because she thought it provided her a connection with a doctor who had been there for her.

The patient also told the board that there were “no boundaries” between them and Schnitzlein “continually cajoled” her up to his room. The two also undressed completely, took two baths together and engaged in sexual activities over the course of several weeks.

On Aug. 26, 2019, Schnitzlein called the patient nine times within 20 minutes with his number identity restricted so she couldn’t see who was calling. He left six voicemails for the patient in a span of 17 minutes, saying he deeply cared about her, that he wanted to connect with her and missed her, that he wanted to make things right and that he wanted a chance to talk to her.

Schnitzlein was notified of the complaint against him in September 2019 and provided a written response to denying the allegation that he had a sexual relationship with the patient in November 2019.

In his statement, Schnitzlein wrote that he believed he was manipulated by the patient into a compromising situation that he didn’t recognize at the time. However, he did acknowledge that by the fourth time he met up with the patient — in a “mis-guided attempt to build trust’’ — he did engage in inappropriate contact with the patient in a situation where both removed most of their clothes.

The board interviewed Schnitzlein later in November and asked him to detail the nature of their relationship. He replied by saying he couldn’t remember anything about their relationship and that he couldn’t say for certain if he had treated her as a patient. When asked about intimate contact with the patient, Schnitzlein said he couldn’t because it was “wiped from my memory.”

“I can’t see or feel or remember the experience, but I’m left with these symptoms that point to an experience and I can’t say what the experience is,” he said during a board interview in response to describing his memory loss about the relationship.

The disciplinary charges were resolved in May 2020 in a consent order, with the board finding him guilty of immoral and unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine, along with engaging in sexual misconduct.

Schnitzlein’s license was suspended for a minimum of one year. He was also ordered to enroll in the Maryland Professional Rehabilitation Program, complete a course in professional ethics that addressed boundary issues and pay a civil fine of $15,000.

Schnitzlein petitioned to terminate the suspension in May 2021, but the petition was denied in November 2021 after review of documentation from multiple sources.

According to the documents, a fitness to practice evaluation from October 2020 didn’t find that Schnitzlein had any memory or cognitive deficits; it instead found that he “distanced himself from his misconduct” and tried to “mitigate his culpability.” Additional reports from evaluations in 2021 and 2021 concluded that a severe health condition was likely the cause for the misconduct. The details of the health condition were not disclosed.

Schnitzlein’s return to practice was endorsed by the rehabilitation program he was enrolled in provided he abided by certain terms and conditions, which included continued treatment, supervision at work and limiting his clinical practice to male patients.

The board disciplinary panel reviewing his petition was not persuaded that Schnitzlein “appreciates or understands the gravity of his violations.” They also determined that further diagnostic testing and treatment for the unresolved health conditions was required.

“Based on its expertise, the panel is not reassured that he has acquired any meaningful insight into the possible motivations for his behavior, or that his rehabilitation process has been sufficiently comprehensive to ensure that he will safely practice medicine. Nor does the panel have confidence that the public would be protected if Dr. Schnitzlein is allowed to resume the practice of medicine at this time,” the panel wrote in its denial of his petition.

Source: Natalie Jones, “Psychiatrist surrenders license after sexual misconduct with patient, The Star Democrat, May 8, 2022, URL:


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