O.C. Doctor's Practice Is Shut Down by Court : Hearing: Gynecologist accused of sexual misconduct involving at least 140 patients is called danger to public.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Tustin gynecologist accused of sexually molesting or improperly treating at least 140 patients over a 30-year period was ordered to stop practicing medicine Friday by a commissioner who concluded he was a danger to the public.

Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Eleanor M. Palk granted a temporary restraining order that shuts down Dr. Ivan C. Namihas' practice pending another hearing April 22.

Several of Namihas' women accusers attended the hearing and greeted the decision with obvious satisfaction.

"It's so gratifying to get him to stop practicing, to stop seeing women, to stop touching them," said Roberta Ward, whose 1982 complaint to the California Medical Board was among those that triggered the board's December decision to try to permanently strip Namihas of his license.

Even before the court considered Friday's emergency request for a temporary restraining order, which was sought as the number of alleged victims soared from roughly 20 to more than 100, Namihas beat the judicial system to the punch. Starting Thursday night, he moved furniture out of his office, and removed the nameplates from his door and the building's directory.

Confronted by a reporter, Namihas put a plastic bag over his head and walked away, according to witnesses.

Documents filed in court Friday revealed an even wider range of alleged misconduct by Namihas, 59, whose alleged transgressions until now were thought to be limited to masturbating patients against their will and making improper sexual remarks to them.

The new details--including claims that Namihas had a hospital employee fired for rejecting his advances--prompted Deputy Atty. Gen. Randy Christison to write that Namihas is "a predator in a white coat" and that he has demonstrated "a singularly malevolent personality."

"Dr. Namihas has used his position of authority as a physician and his unique position of access as a gynecologist to invade women's most intimate areas of personal privacy, solely to carry out the most egregious series of sexual exploitation for his own perverse sexual gratification," the court papers said.

Included in the court file is a lengthy statement by Namihas' former office manager, detailing several instances in which the gynecologist allegedly sexually harassed her and other female employees and other occasions when he allegedly molested her and patients.

The woman said she reported Namihas' actions to the Tustin Police Department on Feb. 27.

"I can't sleep at night because of Dr. Namihas. I'm scared to be doing this," she said about her decision to go public. "But I couldn't live with myself if I let him continue abusing women as he's apparently done for many years."

Namihas' lawyer, Henry Lewin, argued that the attorney general had insufficient evidence to prove Namihas was an imminent threat to public safety because so many of the alleged incidents date back 10 or 15 years. He also said that Namihas' nurse stands ready to dispute one woman's claim of molestation, contending that she was present in the examining room and saw nothing amiss.

But that claim appeared to have little impact on Commissioner Palk.

"Unfortunately, Dr. Namihas has her paycheck right now," Palk said, suggesting that the nurse might not be an impartial witness.

Namihas and his lawyers have refused to comment publicly on the case.

Investigators for the medical board have been stunned by the number of women who claim Namihas molested them. They say it is by far the biggest case of its kind in the state's history.

Palk said she granted the order based on the attorney general's contention that Namihas had committed multiple acts of sexual misconduct. The state's attorney had also argued the doctor is medically incompetent, but Palk said she lacked sufficient evidence to draw conclusions about that.

In its formal accusation against Namihas, filed in December, the medical board included the stories of patients who said Namihas masturbated them and asked inappropriate sexual questions.

Court documents filed Friday by the attorney general allege that Namihas molested patients as early as 1962, and as recently as last month. The court papers allege that he:

* Made one of his patients pregnant and then performed an abortion on her without adequate equipment and safeguards.

* Aggressively assaulted and kissed a hospital employee and had her fired when she reported it.

* Boasted of his sexual prowess and had "physical encounters" with a nurse while a patient was in labor, thus "abdicating his responsibility" to the patient.

* Performed a dilation and curettage on a woman without anesthesia, an act the attorney general called "cruelty, plain and simple."

* Taught a patient how to masturbate, then told her to go home and think of him while she masturbated.

* Induced the same patient to perform oral sex on him.

* Exposed his penis to a patient.

* Harassed a woman "for being in labor for 18 hours."

Times staff writer Vivien Lou Chen contributed to this report.

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