DENVER — A cardiologist was able to renew his license one month after Denver prosecutors charged him with multiple counts of sexual assault. On May 22, Stephen Matthews agreed not to practice right now but only after nine more women came forward.
Police said the first victim came forward earlier this year. She accused Matthews of sexually assaulting her after meeting him on the dating app Hinge. On March 28, Denver prosecutors charged him with three felony counts of sexual assault.
On April 27, the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) said Matthews sent in an application to renew his license, and the renewal took effect on May 1.
"I am shocked and dismayed as a person, as a physician, and as a colleague who practices in cardiology," said 9NEWS medical expert Dr. Payal Kohli.
Kohli said there needs to be more oversight, and hoped to see changes to the system. She knows how renewals work because she submitted her application last month.
"It was a less than five minute process, and it didn't require me to talk about my criminal convictions or mental health changes," she said. "Just a blanket sort of question, 'Have there been any changes that you would like to report?'"
According to a notice by DORA, it is up to the applicant to list any arrests, charges or convictions. Failure to disclose criminal history information could constitute grounds for denial of an application or revocation of a license, the notice said.
"Which physician would voluntarily give up information when they haven't yet been convicted, only been charged, that may put their license at risk?" she said.
According to Lee Rasizer, a spokesperson for DORA, the Colorado Medical Board processes renewals unless the license is under suspension or revocation status, or the applicant reports something bad about themselves.
No specific criminal charge results in an automatic suspension of a license under the purview of the Division of Professions and Occupations (DPO), said Rasizer.
"You are dealing with touching the body. This is not like an accounting application or a lawyer even, when things are arms length away. You are literally touching patients all day long," said Kohli.
On May 16, the Denver District Attorney's Office charged Matthews again for allegedly assaulting nine more women. Prosecutors dismissed the original criminal case against him, and filed a new case alleging 16 felony counts involving 10 women. The DA's Office claims Matthews drugged 10 women, and sexually assaulted three of them.
On May 22, three weeks after Matthews' license was renewed, he agreed with the Colorado Medical Board to not practice for the time being. He entered a non-disciplinary interim cessation of practice agreement during an investigation to determine what further actions could be warranted, according to a Colorado Medical Board document.
The agreement to suspend his medical practice is in effect until there is a final disposition in his case, according to the document. His license said he practiced at seven offices.
"There should be a bigger systemic thing," said Kohli. "That if there is a criminal charge against you, that should be reported to DORA directly. It's a way to protect our patients."
9NEWS does not know if Matthews self-reported the original charges against him before his license was renewed. Ten women have come forward so far, but law enforcement suspects there may likely be more victims.
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