A Boston Children’s Hospital psychiatrist who became convinced his 16-year-old patient suffered from “evil spirits” and appointed himself as her spiritual mentor has been barred from practicing medicine, according to the state Board of Registration in Medicine.
Raymond W. Kam gave the girl a cross to wear in exchange for a different, undisclosed religious symbol she had on; he also took her to church with him and let her stay at his home, board investigators said in documents filed in the case. At one point, she told him that her mother pushed her down the stairs and tried to asphyxiate her, and he allegedly failed to report her charges to the Department of Children and Families as required by state law.
The board voted Wednesday to suspend Kam’s license indefinitely, saying his conduct called into question his “competence to practice medicine.”
Another psychiatrist, Enrico Mezzacappa, knew of Kam’s “spiritual diagnosis” and of the abuse allegations, according to board documents. He was also reprimanded by the board but not suspended from practice.
Kam’s suspension could be lifted by the board as early as June 2014 if Kam completes a psychiatric evaluation and other assessments, and enters into a five-year probation agreement. His attorney said Kam, 43, plans to pursue getting his license back.
In a statement, a spokesman for Children’s Hospital said that neither doctor had a previous record of discipline with the hospital, but that Kam is no longer employed there.
“Boston Children’s Hospital terminated its relationship with Dr. Kam on April 24, 2012,” the statement said. “The disciplinary action taken by the [Board of Registration] against Dr. Mezzacappa does not affect his ability to practice at Boston Children’s Hospital and he remains a member in good standing in the Department of Psychiatry.
“The hospital has received no complaints from other patients regarding Dr. Kam or Dr. Mezzacappa. Neither doctor had a previous record of discipline with Boston Children’s.”
Kam signed a voluntary agreement not to practice medicine on June 25, 2012.
Attorneys for both Kam and Mezzacappa said their clients cooperated with the board in its investigation but declined to comment further.
“I think at this point all I’m going to say is that Dr. Kam fully cooperated with the board’s review of this matter, and worked with the board to reach this agreed upon resolution,” said Kam’s attorney Ellen Janos.
Mezzacappa’s attorney, John Reardon, noted that his client was not involved in treating the girl; according to the board’s findings, he never met or spoke to her.
When Kam began seeing the girl in October of 2011, she was suffering from “several serious psychiatric symptoms and/or conditions,” the board said in its findings. A junior psychiatrist treating her at the hospital had trouble engaging her, but she opened up to Kam.
Kam began to think her problems were spiritual, the board found, and told members of his church he was concerned about a patient’s spiritual wellbeing. His attorney declined to say where Kam goes to church or what religion he practices.
At one point, the junior psychiatrist told Mezzacappa that Kam was “very involved” with the patient, and that he “may be losing objectivity,” but that the girl was improving, the board said.
The girl was hospitalized in February 2012, and Kam met with her alone Feb. 8. After the meeting, the board said, he came to believe that she was “being influenced by, speaking with, and being hurt by evil spiritual entities.”
He visited her about three times while she was in the hospital, and Feb. 14, he gave her a cross to wear, believing that the girl thought “the symbol was harmful” and that “the exchange would help” her.
The next day, Kam decided he could not be part of the girl’s treatment team anymore. He told Mezzacappa that he was taking himself off the case because he did not believe the girl’s problems were psychiatric, the board said.
Mezzacappa complimented Kam “for his courage in coming forward” and remarked that it was interesting and unusual that he, the junior psychiatrist, and Kam all agreed there could be “a spiritual component to [the girl’s] diagnosis.”
Mezzacappa “believed that not all of Children’s Hospital’s psychiatrists would entertain the belief that [the girl] could be suffering from a spiritual diagnosis.”
They discussed the idea that Kam should become the girl’s “spiritual mentor,” the board said, and Mezzacappa told Kam to seek a consultation for the girl from Kam’s church, and told him to speak with a hospital chaplain; Mezzacappa allegedly did not tell the girl’s inpatient treatment team or her mother about the spiritual diagnosis.
After the girl was discharged from the hospital, Kam got permission from her father to act as her spiritual mentor, and he began bringing her to his church and church-related meetings. The two regularly sent each other personal text messages, according to the complaint.
In March, the girl told Kam that her father kicked her out of her home, and rather than report it to any state agency, Kam offered to let the girl stay overnight at his house on several occasions, the board said. That same month, the girl told Kam that her mother had “pushed her down a flight of stairs and tried to asphyxiate her” — which Kam did not report to authorities.
The board said that Kam conveyed the girl’s abuse allegations to the junior psychiatrist, who told Mezzacappa. Mezzacappa then told the junior psychiatrist to speak with the hospital’s legal counsel. Mezzacappa called Kam and reminded him that he was a mandated reporter, according to the board, but Mezzacappa himself never reported the abuse.