Graphic photos of female genitalia found on the cellphone of a Towson gynecologist were taken with patients' consent for medical and educational purposes, the doctor's lawyers said Monday.
The Maryland Board of Physicians suspended Dr. John Yacoub's medical license Oct. 8 after a state and federal investigation revealed the photos, as well as allegations that he used and distributed illicit drugs, including to a patient with whom he had a sexual relationship.
Yacoub's lawyers declined to address the drug allegations but said patients should not be concerned that they may have been secretly photographed. They acknowledged heightened concerns because of revelations in February that another local gynecologist, Dr. Nikita Levy, was being investigated about surreptitiously recording patients.
"This is a different situation than the allegations against Dr. Levy," said Andrew Alperstein of the law firm of Alperstein & Diener. "They're medical pictures."
Yacoub is scheduled to appear Wednesday before the Board of Physicians for a hearing concerning his suspension, Alperstein said. His attorneys planned to ask for a postponement, he said.
Yacoub said Friday he has "never done anything wrong," and he has not been charged with any wrongdoing. He has worked as a gynecologist and surgeon at Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Saint Agnes Hospital over a three-decade career in the Baltimore area, with 10,000 patients and 5,000 babies delivered, his lawyers said.
State regulators launched an investigation after a member of Yacoub's staff reported that he kept large bottles of drugs, considered controlled dangerous substances under federal law, in his office, according to the Board of Physicians' order suspending his license.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration and city and county police were brought into the investigation, said Gary Tuggle, assistant special agent in charge of the Baltimore DEA office.
The images were uncovered during a DEA raid on Yacoub's home last month. The board order said agents found "numerous" images of female genitalia on the doctor's phone, typically with a gloved hand close by. In at least two images, medical equipment is visible, the order said.
The images were taken before, during and after Yacoub performed a vaginal reconstruction procedure he developed for improved muscular support and cosmetics, said Melanie Glickson, another of Yacoub's lawyers. The procedure was performed on women injured during childbirth, and, in some cases, it was elective surgery, Glickson said.
The photos were taken in full view of nurses and other staff with a Samsung smartphone and an iPhone, Glickson said. The patients provided informed consent before the images were taken, she said.
Some of Yacoub's patients, meanwhile, have contacted medical malpractice lawyers, fearing the possibility their privacy was violated. City law firm Schochor, Federico and Staton has heard from "a significant number of patients" it plans to interview, attorney Jonathan Schochor said. Attorney Gary Wais of Wais, Vogelstein & Forman said his firm also has gotten calls from a handful of Yacoub's patients.
Those firms, as well as Pikesville firm Janet, Jenner & Suggs, are representing 3,800 patients of Levy, a former Johns Hopkins Health System gynecologist. After one of Levy's colleagues alerted Hopkins officials of suspicions that he secretly recorded patients, police found in Levy's Baltimore County home multiple servers containing images of patients photographed during medical examinations. Levy committed suicide amid the investigation, which city police said is continuing.
The lawyers for Levy's patients are seeking a class action in Baltimore City Circuit Court.
Patients of Yacoub's with questions about their treatment or medical records can continue to contact Yacoub's office, a private practice on GBMC's Towson campus, Alperstein and Glickson said. Another local gynecologist is managing the office, they said.
Aside from the photos on Yacoub's cellphone, the investigation also uncovered prescription bottles with multiple patients' names at Yacoub's home, as well as text messages about the drugs between him and a patient with whom he had a sexual relationship, according to the board's order. After an initial hearing before the board, Yacoub will be able to request an evidentiary hearing if he disagrees with the board's findings.