AUGUSTA — When the Maine Board of Dental Practice suspended the license of Lewiston oral surgeon Jan Kippax in February, it warned that his recklessness had put his patients and staff “in immediate jeopardy” based on 195 allegations of improper conduct detailed in the complaints of 18 patients.
Almost all of them have been dismissed.
By the time the panel got around to holding a formal hearing on Kippax’s alleged misconduct, the state had already streamlined the accusations to include 64 charges involving his treatment of five patients.
Friday, the state dropped 32 of those charges and the board wiped out 28 more, leaving fewer than four intact to deal with when the hearing starts again Dec. 29.
A few of the concerns of only two patients remain on the table.
James Belleau, the attorney for Kippax, said he’s convinced that once the panel hears his side of the case even those will be tossed out.
Most of the remaining charges revolve around the case of Christine Duplissis of Greene, who testified in September about a harrowing dental visit with Kippax last year.
She told the five members handling the case that she had tears rolling down the side of her face from the pain as she begged the oral surgeon to stop trying to pull a bad tooth. She said Kippax refused and kept on yanking.
The board’s chairwoman, Dr. Lisa Howard, said she found patient Duplissis “very credible” in her allegations that Kippax failed to treat her pain properly or to provide her with enough information to obtain required informed consent.
Duplissis said Friday in an instant message that she is “so relieved” to hear the dental board is taking her case seriously.
“I never lied about ANY of it,” she said. “I’m not interested in any monetary compensation. It boils down to what is right is right and what’s wrong is wrong.”
One of the few remaining charges against Kippax, whose professional license may be on the line, is that he continued with the “painful dental procedure even though” Duplissis expressed distress and told him to stop.
“I believe she was traumatized by the experience,” said Kathryn Young, another member of the board.
The state’s case took a hit last month when its expert witness from Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital backtracked from his initial opinion that Kippax had violated professional standards in his treatment of the five. After hearing more details, the expert wound up saying he couldn’t assert that Kippax had acted improperly.
Belleau, who has yet to offer a defense, immediately called on the state to drop its charges because the lack of expert testimony made it impossible for the Attorney General’s Office to prevail. It is required to show it’s more likely than not that Kippax violated standards or rules he is obligated to follow.
After a review, the state dropped half of its allegations. The board plowed through each of the rest Friday, ultimately wiping out all by three and a half of the charges.
Board members complained that they often didn’t have a lot to go on and sometimes couldn’t even figure out what the state alleged because the wording was so confusing.
Dr. Glen Davis, one of the panel members, said they could only rely on “what’s in front of us.”
“We don’t have much to go by,” he said.
Many times, panel members said, they were faced with “he said, she said” scenarios in which sedated patients accused Kippax of mistreatment while he and two assistants who testified denied any wrongdoing.
Without more to go on, they said, they couldn’t say the state had shown the dentist had more likely than not acted improperly.
Young said patients who felt so wronged that they took the time and trouble to file a complaint deserved to have their stories taken seriously.
The hearing, which has been underway off and on for five days so far, is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 29. Board members are ready for it to go into Saturday, Dec. 30.
It is not clear whether more time will be needed to wind up the proceedings in the new year.
Dr. Jan Kippax attends a hearing before the Maine Board of Dental Examiners in Augusta in September. (Sun Journal file photo)
Dr. Jan Kippax, right, and his two attorneys, James Belleau and Adam Lee, face the Maine Board of Dental Practice Friday as its members weigh whether to dismiss most of the charges that threaten Kippax’s license to practice dentistry. (Steve Collins/Sun Journal)