An Irvine doctor whose practice was being monitored due to past drug and alcohol abuse is having the Medical Board of California case against him amended to include more recent allegations of sexual misconduct with two female patients–and his license to practice medicine has been suspended.
We previously reported on the investigation of Dr. Brent Edward Silvers, who specializes in internal medicine, after the medical board staff received complaints about his fitness to practice medicine. It was alleged that Silvers not only drank on the job but that he would have liposuction patients given wine to help with sedation. At that time, it was decided his practice would be monitored by a board-approved doctor.
However, Silvers’ medical license was suspended at least on an interim basis in November, and the allegations against him were amended to the original complaint a month later because of his experiences with two female patients.
Silvers was the primary care physician of a woman for a couple years when she agreed to get a bone-density exam in May 2017. He allegedly told her she would need to remove all her clothing for the test, but because it was during her menstrual cycle, she left her Spandex-style underwear under her patient gown. At Silvers’ supposed urging, she reluctantly removed the panties but, having no place to put them, kept them by her head while lying on her back on the exam table.
While she was on the table under the bone density machine, Silvers allegedly gave her heavy-dark glasses, which left her unable to see. Silvers is accused of later opening her gown, exposing her breasts, and saying, “I’m sorry, I know it’s kind of weird you have to have the gown open for this test.” After the scan was done, he reportedly told the patient to get dressed but did not leave the room. “You have a nice figure,” he is said to have told her, “I’m used to seeing a lot of overweight people.”
The patient told board investigators that in a later phone call with Silvers, she informed him that a friend who also got a bone density exam did not have to disrobe. He is alleged to have said one gets better images if the patient is naked. She claims she shot back that he should have had a female chaperone in the room, to which he is said to have replied, “That was a mistake, I apologize for that, I agree with you, that was an oversight. I do them for a long time, and I didn’t think of it.” She says that when she asked why her breasts had to be exposed, he answered that everyone is naked for the exam but he should have had a female chaperone present.
The matter did not end there, as Irvine Police Department officers question Silvers about the bone density exam on June 29, 2017. The doctor told cops that patients always wear gowns during the tests and a female chaperone is always present when the patient is also a woman. But he could not recall if the patient at the center of the police investigation was ever completely naked and denied opening her gown because he said he would have no reason to. Asked if he had spoken with the patient since the exam, Silvers told officers he could not remember that but believes he would have because such a complaint would have been “scary.” Pressed for an answer about whether he spoke with the woman, Silvers reiterated he could not recall, denied he was being dishonest and mentioned he just got out of the hospital.
When a board investigator interviewed Silvers on Feb. 14 of this year, the doctor allegedly said he had dismantled the bone density scanner machine. The investigator noted Silvers could not remember the last names of employees nor where he completed his residency training nor when he was hospitalized nor having had conversations with Irvine police officers. Asked if he had suffered any falls or injuries that could have impaired him, Silvers is said to have answered he had fallen down the stairs a year before.
The second incident involved a female medical trainee-turned-assistant who recalled chaperoning during four bone density scans with women patients who were completely nude during Silvers’ exams. At one point, the doctor is alleged to have asked the assistant to get completely naked for an exam so he could test the equipment.
After reviewing various examination records and Irvine police reports, board-retained psychiatrist Dr. Markam Kirsten on Feb. 22 diagnosed Silvers with moderate to severe alcohol use disorder, mild cognitive disorder stemming from probable brain trauma and substance abuse and a mild sedative disorder.
Kirsten opined that Silvers’ medical license should be suspended pending completion of an alcohol treatment program. Kirsten followed up with a Sept. 15 report concluding Silvers could not continue his solo practice without making significant errors.
On Oct. 8, Dr. Martin J. Backman, a neuropsychiatrist retained by the board, submitted a report based on having looked over everything Kirsten had as well as Kirsten’s own reports. Backman concluded Silvers suffered from an illness or condition that impacted his ability to safely practice medicine. Another expert retained by the board reported that bone density exams do not warrant patients getting naked, and another found giving wine to patients who would be taking narcotics and sedatives “constituted an extreme departure from the standard of care, given the profound respiratory depression that could result therein.”
The board granted the interim suspension of Silvers’ medical license on Nov. 2.
The previous complaints involving Silvers mostly came from his workers. A former clerical worker told board investigators that she heard Silvers say while at work he was hung over, and on another occasion he came to work at 9:30 a.m. with bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol on his breath. A physician assistant told investigators Silvers reported to work “on multiple occasions … under the apparent influence of alcohol,” prompting her once to suggest that he go home. Another medical assistant told of Silvers displaying “mood swings” and “odd behavior,” such as saying inappropriate things to patients like, “Don’t drink the water. Fish fuck in the water.”
That worker also told board investigators that she smelled alcohol on Silvers’ breath before a surgical procedure, and that when she suggested he go home, he replied that was a good idea. The medical assistant is the one who mentioned that Silvers often instructed her to give wine to liposuction patients to assist with sedation.
In the original investigation, Silvers allegedly told board reps that he consumed up to a half bottle of wine with every dinner, hoping it would help him sleep as he battled insomnia. The doctor is also claimed to have said he suffered a fall that required an emergency room visit and left him with a serious head injury, although he submitted no documents proving he was injured nor that a treatment plan to deal with it had been devised. Silvers is said to have denied ever reporting to work under the influence or telling anyone he was an addict, although he is accused of admitting to having in the past offered patients wine to help them relax.
Examinations by medical and mental health experts recommended by the board as well as those hired by Silvers as part of the original investigation reached different conclusions about his fitness to continue practicing medicine. The board ultimately found that cognitive deficits had been detected but that no evidence was presented of substandard care or patient harm by Silvers, and so there would be no full hearing on whether his medical license would be suspended or revoked at that time.
However, based on all the recommendations, the board did find justification for Silvers to have his practice monitored “to protect the public,” and that the doctor, not taxpayers, would pay for the monitoring.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.