Dr. Frederick Field is off to prison for the ultimate breach of trust~ what's next for his victims?
Dr Fred Field pleaded guilty to rape and sex abuse in Wasco County court on Sept 18.
Still Photography by Willie Hayward, Salem-News.com
(THE DALLES, Ore) - Dr. Frederick Field now will be known as one of Oregon’s most notorious serial sex offenders. The bad doctor pleaded guilty to 11 counts of first-degree sex abuse and one count of first-degree rape in the Wasco County court last Tuesday.
This was a change in plea which came after lengthy negotiations between the district attorney and Field's lawyer. 47-year old Frederick George Field was sentenced to 276 months in prison (23 years), based on Measure 11 guidelines.
For five years, Field, an anesthesiologist, worked at the main hospital in The Dalles, the Mid-Columbia Medical Center (MCMC).
Frederick George Field obtained his license to practice in Oregon in 2005. He earned his medical degree at Tulane University School of Medicine in 1998 and completed residency training in internal medicine and anesthesiology at Brown University in Providence, R.I.; he is currently married, and has two young children.
He was first indicted by a Wasco County grand jury and accused of abusing two patients. He was arrested July 28, 2011, and charged in August with rape and felony sexual abuse. He was held on more than $1 million bond.
The allegations began with two victims but quickly became more. Soon he was charged with sexually abusing seven women; six patients and one hospital employee, revealing that they were incapacitated by drugs when they were assaulted.
Then, the Oregon Medical Board suspended his license while the investigation was underway. The OMB had no record of disciplinary actions or malpractice claims against Dr Field prior to these sexual assault charges.
Whistleblower Victims Speak Out
A 66-year-old woman filed suit against Mid-Columbia Medical Center in August 2011 shedding more light on the sordid situation. She had undergone surgery in February 2011, conducted by Field.
"As soon as she was able to speak, she told her surgeon that Dr. Field had forced her to touch him sexually during the surgery. Dr. Field denied the allegations, and said that [she] had been hallucinating under the effect of the anesthetic," stated Kafoury & McDougal, the Portland law firm that represented the woman, on their website.
The woman said she took her concerns to hospital management but they did not take her seriously. Hospital officials disagree. They say when the patient first told them about the sexual abuse in May, they immediately notified The Dalles Police Department.
Richard Baltus, spokesman for Mid-Columbia Medical Center, said the hospital "took every precaution to ensure Dr. Field was not in a position to compromise patient safety and was never in a room alone with a patient."
The last known case of sexual abuse took place on July 24, over two months later. It wasn’t against a patient this time; instead he abused a female employee.
And what of the Oregon Health Authority? Were they apprised of the imminent risk to patients? The OHA is "the organization at the forefront of lowering and containing costs, improving quality and increasing access to health care in order to improve the lifelong health of Oregonians". This case is an example of when their guidance would have been especially helpful to patients in Oregon.
MCMC reportedly reaps $100 million a year from their vast healthcare empire; that is a lot to protect, but at what cost?
By sentencing last Tuesday, twelve victims had come forward, including co-workers, who said they were abused by Field between 2007 – 2011, and joined the cause to find justice.
According to reports, some of the victims said they awoke as Field touched them, and some had convinced themselves that their memories were dreams until the doctor was arrested.
Wasco County Chief Deputy District Attorney Leslie Wolf said the victims who were sedated by Field for surgery or other medical problems and then touched inappropriately. Six of Field's accusers say he touched their genitals or breasts, or forced them to touch his genitals, and one woman said Field forced her to have sexual intercourse in 2008.
In the cases involving co-workers, Field “asked if they wanted medication to ease a headache or some other ailment. He then took them into a room and administered medication that incapacitated them before they were abused,” Prosecutors said.
There are several drugs that would have been accessible to Field. Versed, a common drug by Anesthesiologists, is well known to induce amnesia, especially retrograde amnesia. It's very useful especially for painful procedures as the patient might be conscious at the time of the pain but not remember anything later.
As an Anesthesiologist, Fred Field had not only access to this drug and others, but also the expertise to use it to his advantage.
Who Knew and When? Adding Insult to Injury.
All of the crimes did not take place at the hospital itself. The admitted rapist allegedly took at least one of his victims to a house owned by the hospital foundation, used by visiting doctors and those on call. In Afghanistan, the Taliban and Russian soldiers were well known to use “rape rooms” as part of their torture of the locals. Being drugged and trapped with a rapist behind closed doors in The Dalles, Oregon, is no less torture.
809 Union Street in The Dalles is leased to MCMC for use as a "call house", and may be an integral piece of the puzzle as the investigation into the possible cover up of Dr Field's crimes continues.
The one rape victim in this case so far was a nurse working at Mid-Columbia Medical Center and lived about an hour away. She thought their anesthesiologist and her co-worker, Dr Field, was a trusted friend when she asked him for something to relieve her of a bad headache. When she "came to", Fred Field was on top of her - raping her on a couch in that MCMC leased call house on Union Street. Oregon State police DNA tested semen found on the MCMC "rape house" couch and it was identified as that of Dr. Field, likely contributing to his change in plea to guilty.
Field did not speak in court except to admit guilt to the charges against him at the hearing presided over by Judge Paul Crowley, but several of his victims did. Field stared forward, not reacting to their pleas for his remorse, not showing any sign that he even cared what they had to say.
"How could this happen?” One victim asked. “How could this man damage other women's lives ... how is it possible that this was allowed to happen?"
“You will be as powerless as I was once,” another victim said. “Your crimes can only have come from an unimaginable void within the moral fabric that exists within the rest of us; you have none. I hope I can someday find a way to forgive you; not because you deserve it but because I do.”
“What was really disappointing is that the doctor made no statement, and he made no effort to acknowledge what he had done to the women that had not been the subject of indictments and it shows what an unregenerate man he is,” said attorney Greg Kafoury.
“I think they were all offended at the fact that the man wouldn’t speak, they wanted to hear something.
“He is a coward. He wouldn’t stand up and say it, he talked through his lawyer. If there was ever a time for someone to stand up and say they were sorry, and to acknowledge what they had done, this would be the time to do it,” Kafoury said.
Whether or not there are additional victims remains to be seen. Kafoury is convinced there are more.
“I think there are women out there who have a story to tell, who are reluctant to step forward. If there are women who believe he should serve even longer, and they know what he did to them, they need to search their consciences and find the courage to do what these other women have done."
The civil trial is expected to begin in about a year, and Kafoury’s law team is seeking $14 million or more in damages from the hospital for pain and suffering on behalf of his clients.
Hospital administrators were allegedly advised of Field’s criminal behavior in 2008, but failed to act. The next three years put many other women in the position of being victimized by Dr Field. The Oregon Medical Board waited until after his arrest to take action. Why?
Dr Field had access to unconscious female patients every single day. It is possible that in the years he was at MCMC he committed far more sex abuse crimes than the 20 or so times described in this case.
In this rural Oregon town of 16,000 on the banks of the Columbia River famous for its fruits, wheat and wines, people in the know have been afraid to speak up, even when their wives, mothers or even grandmothers are being raped and sexually assaulted. Intimidation comes in many forms, and it must be removed as a factor once and for all in Wasco County.
Joan Field, the convicted doctor’s mother, told Salem-News.com that her son “didn’t rape anyone”, and that the charges have more to do with money than truth.
“It was a consensual affair, it occurred twice in two different places; once in her apartment and once in the hospital. It was a consensual affair, it was not rape. She is a very good actress.”
When asked if she had anything to say to the many women victimized by her son, Ms Field shook her head and said, “I don’t think there were many. I think there was only one, I think it was Allen. I think all the rest were...otherwise.”
“There is a lot of money involved here, and I think a lot of people are in it for the money. I’m sorry.”
She also does not believe it was possible for him to get a fair trial in Wasco County. According to Joan Field, a survey was conducted to determine what percentage of citizens in the county were aware of the proceedings against Frederick Field. Of the 1000 people polled, 80% were aware of the case, and 65% believed him to be guilty before the trial.
Frederick Field did not receive a change of venue to another county based on that information.
Complicity Can Be Criminal
By most accounts, The Dalles is an unpretentious, unsuspecting, “salt of the earth” rural community. The people that call The Dalles “home” have a good quality of life. They trust their friends, neighbors, and especially their doctors. In many cases, for generations.
This case is a serious affront to all area citizens that work to keep their city an honorable place to live. That may be the reason that this story has been kept strangely quiet.
A Letter to the Editor signed by several The Dalles community members expressed outrage at the lack of public outcry. “Our community has its own Penn State scandal going on,” they wrote.
“Why is the Hospital Board sitting on its hands? This scandal is a blight on our whole community. It makes us all look bad. Let’s put our support behind the victims, not those who allegedly let it happen.
“It seems to us that having the CEO of the hospital being a member of the board is an exercise in futility if the board’s true purpose is to police the hospital. How can they possibly be objective?” The letter asked.
Greg Kafoury said, “The hospital is in a bunker. All of its administrators are in a bunker, they talk through counsel and we’re going to pry the lid off the bunker and we’re going to make them all talk under oath and produce every document. We promised today, to this community, that they would have a trial and those who knew about what this man was doing, all those who concealed it will have to face the community under oath in a courtroom.”
Duane Francis, chief executive officer for the medical center, did not attend the court proceedings and he opted to have a spokesperson answer our questions. Richard Baltus, Director of Public Relations and Marketing spoke to Salem-News.com via telephone exclusively after the sentencing.
He said, “In general we are pleased that the criminal proceedings against Dr Field have come to an end with the result appropriate for the despicable nature of his crimes, but also spares his victims from having to relive them in court.”
When asked if he expected more victims to come forward, he said, “We certainly have not heard of any. It appears to be the end of it, from the criminal standpoint.”
I asked him what he would say to the women of Wasco County to give them the confidence that the Medical Center is a safe place to be, and is watching out for their best interests?
“We have reviewed every single one of our policies in regard to patient safety to ensure that we are continuing to provide the safest possible environment for our patients and I’m confident that we are.
“This was a single individual determined to do harm, and certainly our hearts go out to his victims but his despicable actions don’t define our organization or what we’re all about. We are confident we’ve always had the right safety measures in place; he was just determined to do harm. (taps table) Sometimes there’s not anything you can do about that.”
“Have all the cases that Dr Field has worked on been reviewed?” I asked.
“No. I can’t answer that,” Baltus said.
Regarding the timeliness of the hospital’s report to the police when they knew of the accusations, Baltus said, “As soon as we had the information we could to go to the police, we immediately went to the police with that. I really can’t elaborate on that, but it’s certainly not a case of us ignoring accusations, ever.
“We have been providing care at the main hospital since 1959, and this is the first incident of anything like this ever happening.
“MCMC is not some giant, faceless corporation. It’s the largest employer in town, and as such it’s a microcosm of this community so we’re confident when people put a face on MCMC it’s the face of their neighbor or friend or family member, it’s not going to be the face of Fred Field.”
Oregon State Prison for Twenty-Three Years
Field will not be eligible for early parole, and when he leaves prison in over twenty years, he will have to register as a sex offender according to Wasco County Chief Deputy District Attorney Leslie Wolf.
She said that Field will also pay fines and assessments, and restitution of $5,308.02 for counseling expenses for five of his victims. A request to give Field's posted bail money to victims was denied by the judge.
"He's on Measure 11 time, so he's not eligible for any early release programs. He will have to register as a sex offender, and will have no contact with any of the victims and their families."
“I think the guilty plea was important to the victims to hear that he was accepting accountability and responsibility for the acts that he did to them.
“This is the time this community needs to start healing. Fred Field is the one that did these actions to these women, these women were completely vulnerable, they did nothing wrong. We ask the community to remember that, and to start respecting and having compassion for them and their families at this time,” Wolf said.
There are many more victims who may be suffering in silence and some whose memory of the abuse may have been wiped out by the sexual predator, using his knowledge, expertise and socioeconomic status to prey on his victims.
The victims of these crimes are not limited to those who physically had hands put upon them, as these events have changed the lives of everyone involved forever, including the families, friends and coworkers of every victim. The impact is like a pebble in a pond, the ripples go on and on.
When all was said and done, Stephen Houze, the Portland attorney representing Field made a plea to the victims, community members, the judge and prosecutor.
“He’s a human being; he’s not a monster,” said Houze, in court. “He’s a man who has contributed significantly in his life to the welfare of others. He is a husband and the loving father of two children with elderly parents who will live out their lives before he is free. I think it’s important to bear in mind that criminal cases, criminal justice, involves a number of victims.”
Dr Frederick Field put his hands behind his back and the Wasco County Deputies placed him in handcuffs and led him from the courtroom. He was then transported to the regional jail and then he was readied to go to prison for the next two decades.
Stay tuned to Salem-News.com as this investigation continues. The Dr Fred Field story is not nearly finished.
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Bonnie King has been with Salem-News.com since August '04, when she became Publisher. Bonnie has served in a number of positions in the broadcast industry; TV Production Manager at KVWB (Las Vegas WB) and Producer/Director for the TV series "Hot Wheels in Las Vegas", posts as TV Promotion Director for KYMA (NBC), and KFBT (Ind.), Asst. Marketing Director (SUPERSHOPPER MAGAZINE), Director/Co-Host (Coast Entertainment Show), Radio Promotion Director (KBCH/KCRF), and Newspapers In Education/Circulation Sales Manager (STATESMAN JOURNAL NEWSPAPER). Bonnie has a depth of understanding that reaches further than just behind the scenes, and that thoroughness is demonstrated in the perseverance to correctly present each story with the wit and wisdom necessary to compel and captivate viewers.
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