The bizarre case of an Oklahoma psychiatrist who used tales of sorcery and evil spirits to coerce patients into sex could prompt a change in state law. Kyle L. Stewart – the so-called witchcraft doctor – surrendered his license after patients alleged he’d manipulated them with misleading diagnoses and bizarre stories.
Stewart faced malpractice lawsuits in court and slinked away into retirement but was not convicted on any criminal charges. Oklahoma, unlike many other states, does not have any laws which explicitly outlaw intimate relationships between patients and physicians. In Georgia and Florida, doctors and psychologists who seduce their clients can be locked away for years.
However, the proposed change to Oklahoma law would only levy a financial penalty on those who might run afoul of it.
State Senator Josh Brecheen explained, “We wanted this to have a cause and effect. If you’re willing to expose someone to trauma that they will pay for for the rest of their life, we are going to make it cost you.”
Breechen said he was “disturbed” that he had to re-introduce old legislation that had been scrapped five years ago. If his law were to take effect, it would couple misdemeanor or felony charges with fines ranging between $5,000 and $20,000. No jail time is stipulated as part of any of possible punishment, but the senator did tell Fox 23 that incarceration could be an option.
“There wasn’t the desire to advance this,” Breechen said. “This could be different now, because this instance in Bartlesville has brought the issue to light.”
Stweart, who was a psychiatrist and a church deacon, convinced former victims of child abuse that they were “possessed” before sexually assaulting them. He played on his clients’ religious beliefs to coerce them into stripping in his office and allowing him to touch them inappropriately.
Some of the other tales Stewart wove included telling a woman that she had “been given over to witchcraft” as a child. He suggested that her mother performed satanic rituals in the woods. When the patient told the doctor about a dream she’d had about dancing with Jesus, Stewart asked that she act it out with him in the office.
When one former patient tried to alert the authorities, Stewart apparently told her that it’d be a useless effort because he was friends with the local district attorney.
Once word of his string of abuses got out, he was able to broker a deal with the state medical licensing committee to surrender his credentials without having his name passed on to the DA. At least one of Stewart’s former patients committed suicide after believing herself possessed.
Even if Oklahoma’s proposed protections may seem weak, they’re a step in the right direction for a part of the nation missing a necessary regulation between patient and physician interaction.