Trauma surgeon Reginald Burton, stripped of his medical license 15 months ago for inappropriate behavior with his patients, suffered a setback Friday in his bid to return to medicine.
Saying it didn’t have “enough evidence to believe he can practice safely,” the Nebraska Board of Medicine and Surgery voted unanimously to deny Burton’s request to have his license reinstated. The board’s action came after a discussion that was closed to the public.
Burton, the former longtime trauma chief at Bryan Campus West, was not at the meeting. Later Friday, through his Ohio-based attorney, Burton declined to comment until he had a chance to review the board’s decision and evaluate his options.
The 58-year-old doctor — well-known for saving lives in high-profile cases and for his work training first-responders — was escorted from Bryan in October 2016.
The state then pulled Burton’s license in August 2017, citing accusations he performed unnecessary genital exams; insisted on inserting catheters in male patients, even if there wasn’t a medical need; took pictures of his patients’ genitalia without their consent; touched the penises of unconscious patients; and provided sex toys to patients with spinal cord injuries.
"Continued practice at this time would constitute an imminent danger to public health and safety," investigators wrote in their 15-page petition to suspend his license.
At the time, his lawyer said the state’s actions were fueled by innuendo, and did not contain a single allegation of patient injury or complaint. Attorney Wayne Waite also called the complaints against Burton an attempt to chase his client out of town because he's gay.
“The complaint is based almost entirely on the fear of working with someone with a different sexual orientation," Waite said.
But Burton didn’t contest the allegations. He agreed to a 20-month suspension, which was backdated to January 2017 and ended in September.
He applied for reinstatement in October, saying he had completed his suspension and fulfilled other state requirements, including continued medical education. He also said he complied with the recommendations of his treatment providers, completing an ethics and boundaries program that addresses professional misconduct by health care workers.
After Friday’s no vote, Burton can request a hearing before the board. If the board doesn’t change its decision after that hearing, he can appeal to district court, said Leah Bucco-White, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
This isn’t Burton's first time facing state sanctions. In 2014, the Division of Public Health alleged he “demonstrated poor professional boundaries with patients.” At the time, his license to practice medicine faced the possibility of discipline, suspension or revocation.
That ended with Burton signing what’s called an assurance of compliance: He admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to maintain professional boundaries with patients. The state agreed not to take disciplinary action.