Danielle Roberts’ medical license has been revoked.
The Office of Professional Medical Conduct [OPMC] for the New York State Department of Health has determined that Roberts, a doctor of osteopathy, or D.O., must surrender her medical license because of her role in branding women as part of ceremonies connected to the secret sorority DOS.
Beginning in January of 2017 and continuing through March 2017, Roberts used an electrocautery device and a stencil to brand the DOS symbol into the pelvic regions of 17 women, most of whom were nude.
A three-member committee, consisting of two physicians and one lay person, conducted hearings for almost a year, on 13 separate dates and with 15 witnesses, plus Roberts, testifying in her own defense.
Only one branded woman, Sarah Edmondson, testified against Roberts.
Several women who received a brand from Roberts testified on her behalf, disputing Edmondson’s testimony.
They testified that when they agreed to join DOS they were told that receiving a brand would be part of their initiation ceremony
Edmondson testified that she was told that a small tattoo would be required and that she didn’t know it would be a brand until the night the branding took place. She further testified that she didn’t want to receive a brand but she felt comforted by the fact that it would be done by a physician, Roberts.
Roberts and the Health Department each called expert witnesses. But it was Edmondson’s testimony that carried the day.
She described her pain from the branding as “an acute fire in the most sensitive part of my body.”
She also described the women of Lauren Salzman’s slave pod who were branded alongside her. Evidence was presented that suggested that several women cried, and one woman screamed and squealed, flipped off the table, and bit down on a towel.
Contradicting this testimony was the branding video of Edmondson, which was shown to the board. Edmondson’s branding video showed the branding procedure occurred in a small room of a house and took about 20 minutes to complete.
The women were videotaped with a cell phone, as a their sorority sisters helped secure the woman receiving a brand with their hands and/or bodies to keep her still and supine on the massage table.
On the video of Edmondson’s branding, the women were seen laughing and joking as they shared their experience. Edmondson says on the video she is proud and honored to obtain the DOS brand.
Roberts argued that this was not the practice of medicine not only because it was clear to all parties that she was not their doctor and that they were not her patients, but because branding does not meet the basic tenets of medical practice, to help another heal a condition, nor does it meet the medical-legal definition of medical practice, as it does not “diagnose, treat, operate or prescribe for any human disease, pain, injury, deformity or physical condition.”
Roberts also argued that it was clear to all those involved that it was not the practice of medicine because:
- The branding was not paid for.
- No medications were prescribed.
- No scripts at all were written.
- None of the formalities normally associated with normal medical practice were observed.
- No formal written informed consent was obtained.
- No medical history was taken.
- No physical examination was performed.
- No medical records were maintained.
- No insurance information was obtained.
- Insurance billing codes for branding don’t exist.
Did Not Know It was KAR Initials
The Hearing Committee found “particularly troubling” evidence establishing the women were “purposefully not told what symbol would be branded onto their bodies.”
Edmondson testified that “at no point did anyone say these are Keith’s initials. It was only revealed to me later.”
Roberts knew the symbol was KAR to represent Keith Raniere’s initials. Roberts said she did not disclose it to the women because it wasn’t her “business” or ‘responsibility” and doing so would have breached her “lifetime vow of obedience” to DOS.
Roberts knew the symbol included KAR to represent Keith Raniere’s initials as one of its meanings. Roberts said she did not disclose it to the women because she believed it wasn’t her role to do so, and believed they may have already been told by their DOS masters, as she was. She says she was not the lead in the organization and her role was branding technician in an initiation ceremony.
The committee also found that “In subjecting the women to significant pain from the electrocautery device, Roberts was required to administer, or, at the very least offer, anesthesia, such as a local anesthetic, to alleviate the pain.”
When branding is done by a non-physician, anesthesia is never used, nor would it be legally permissible. However, the Committee distinguished between a physician and non-physician doing the same branding.
While a non-physician cannot legally use anesthesia despite the pain the branding might cause, physician Roberts was, by not using anesthesia, causing the women, “significant physical pain.”
Roberts was also accused of potentially causing the women to endure, “2nd degree burns, and abnormal permanent and/or raised keloid and hypertrophic scarring, and placed them at risk for harm, including deeper 3rd and 4th degree burns and psychological trauma like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety.”
Some of the accusations against Roberts stemmed from her use of a Medline electrocautery device to place a scar on the body. The Committee ruled that since this was the practice of medicine, Roberts was required to complete training in the use of the electrocautery device.
Roberts gave Edmondson a brand using an electrocautery pen, similar to what is used to give tattoos.No medical license is required to purchase an electrocautery device.
Roberts “failures to maintain proper infection control standards and operational procedures while using an electrocautery device that inflicted 2nd degree burns on the women were severe deviations from the standard of care,” the Committee found.
More significantly, the Committee found that Roberts “never informed the women she branded that the brand was KAR to represent Keith Alan Raniere’s initials or that it would measure approximately two inches by two inches. The brand was intentionally placed upside down and backward on most of the women to conceal Keith Raniere’s initials.”
Branded women “had falsely been told by their masters that the brand represented ‘a symbol of the sorority,’ ‘a line of the sun and the earth and certain elements,’ a ‘abstract symbol,’ ‘chakras,’ and/or ‘four elements,’ and that the size would be ‘little,’ ‘small,’ and/or ‘dime-sized.’”
Branding Is Not the Practice of Medicine
In her defense, Roberts argued that the Board lacked subject matter jurisdiction to bring charges against her because she “was not engaged in the practice of medicine” and that branding “is not a medical procedure.”
Branding is an unregulated activity that people choose to engage in at their local tattoo shop, fraternity, sorority or home.
Roberts argued that branding is a form of commercial body art like tattooing and body piercing.
Roberts testified that she perceived herself to be acting as a branding technician in a private capacity that was not part of medical practice, rather than as a physician.
She did not consider the women to whom she gave brands to be her patients. She offered evidence that the women of DOS who received a brand before Roberts became involved received their brands from a branding artist.
Roberts charged that this was an improper attempt by the OPMC to exercise jurisdiction over the purely private, non-medical conduct of a physician in violation of the New York Education Law and the New York Public Health Law.
“This effort is not only dangerous for physicians but also is a gross misuse of resources as it places the State Board for Professional Medical Conduct in a position where it is being called upon to utilize its limited resources to pursue a purely political attack on perfectly legal and private activities,” Roberts argued.
“The jurisdiction granted to the Board does not extend to the regulation of physicians in their private lives and to activities not considered the practice of medicine,” her attorney argued,
The committee disagreed, determining that branding becomes a medical procedure when performed by a physician. The branding procedure is called a “medical procedure” 55 times in the Amended Statement of Charges.
The committee ruled 3-0 that Roberts committed ten definitions of misconduct because of the branding:
- Willfully abusing a patient
- Conduct in the practice of medicine which evidences moral unfitness
- Failing to use appropriate infection control practices
- Practicing the profession of medicine fraudulently
- Practicing the profession with gross negligence
- Practicing the profession with negligence on more than one occasion
- Practicing the profession with gross incompetence
- Practicing the profession with incompetence on more than one occasion
- Performing professional services which have not been authorized by the patient
- Failing to maintain a record for each patient which accurately reflects the evaluation and treatment of the patient
The Hearing Committee also voted 2-1 to sustain two additional specifications of misconduct, connected to her alleged failure to report a breakout of an illness the symptoms of which were diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and fatigue.
Roberts attended a ten-day annual NXIVM corporate retreat known as “Vanguard Week” at the Silver Bay YMCA Family and Retreat Center, in Silver Bay, New York to celebrate the birthday of Keith Raniere. The attendees included more than 400 NXIVM members.
During the event and while attending it, a gastrointestinal illness affected many attendees.
Physicians are required under Department of Health regulations to report a communicable disease or any disease outbreak or unusual disease to public health officials. However, the prosecution’s primary witness Dr. Farber stated that in his 40 years of experience, he had never witnessed a general practitioner report an outbreak while they were on vacation.
Roberts admitted she did not report the outbreak of the gastrointestinal illness during the event to public health officials but claims she was not required to because she was on vacation and since “garden variety” stomach viruses, which are “unpleasant but not lethal,” are not “communicable” or “unusual” and, therefore, do not meet the mandatory reporting requirements under the regulation.
The Committee determined that Roberts:
- Willfully failed to file a report required by law; and
- Willfully or grossly negligently failed to comply with substantial provisions of federal, state, or local law.
The Committee determined, in conclusion, that “The evidence shows, however, that she deliberately chose to adhere to her DOS “vows of obedience” instead of providing the women she branded with “all the things that a physician does” because to do so would have resulted in “breaking (her) vow” and “went quite the counter to what the whole purpose was.
“In other words, when faced with any conflict between NXIVM and her responsibilities as a physician, she chose NXIVM. For these reasons, the Hearing Committee believes she abdicated her values as a physician and failed her profession, herself, and everyone else involved.”
Roberts Will Appeal
The decision of the hearing committee is not final.
New York State Public Health Law provides for a review by the Administrative Review Board for professional medical conduct.
Roberts told Frank Report she intends to serve notice that she wants the determination reviewed.
“This is not over. It has hardly begun,” Roberts told Frank Report. “Branding is not the practice of medicine. Anyone can perform it without a license in NYS. I can’t condone the government’s peering into the private lives of physicians as a way to control the way they live– a scary proposition indeed.”
The committee rejected Roberts’ arguments siding with the attorney for the Board of Health who argued that “the brandings fell within the definition as to what constitutes the practice of medicine.”
Citing NYS Education Law §6521, the panel concluded that “The practice of the profession of medicine is defined as ‘diagnosing, treating, operating or prescribing for any human disease, pain, injury, deformity or physical condition.’ Whether conduct constitutes the practice of medicine is a determination to be made by the Hearing Committee based on the facts presented.”
Roberts argued that she did not act as a physician but as a member of a sorority and that she did not diagnose, treat, operate or prescribe for any human disease, pain, injury, deformity or physical condition.
The Committee rejected her argument, ruling that “To the contrary, it is glaringly obvious to the Hearing Committee that she was operating on the women to alter the skin, appearance, and physical condition of their pelvic regions regardless of whether they were ‘normal and healthy.'”
The three-member committee that determined the results of the hearing are Steven Lapidus, M.D., Chair, Ramanathan Raju, M.D., and Joan Martinez McNicholas.
Administrative Law Judge Dawn MacKillop-Soller presided over the Roberts’ hearing.
The Department of Health, Bureau of Professional Medical Conduct was represented by attorney Jeffrey J. Conklin
Roberts’ appeal is likely to focus on her claim that based on New York Education Law, the branding performed by Roberts was not a medical procedure.
Roberts is represented by Anthony Z. Scher, who wrote in her defense: “Section 6521 of the Education Law is entitled ‘Definition of Practice of Medicine’ and provides that ‘The practice of the profession of medicine is defined as diagnosing, treating, operating or prescribing for any human disease, pain, injury, deformity or physical condition.’…
“Section 6521 contains a two-pronged test. First, the activity must involve ‘diagnosing, treating, operating or prescribing.”
“While branding does not involve diagnosing, treating or prescribing, it arguably involves ‘operating.’ But this is only the first prong of the test. The ‘operating’ must be for a human disease, pain, injury, deformity or physical condition. It should be blatantly obvious that none of these criteria are implicated.
“The women who received a brand were perfectly normal and healthy in all respects and OPMC presented no evidence to the contrary. No evidence was offered by OPMC that the women who received a brand had any ‘disease, pain, injury, deformity or physical condition.’
“Since this second prong of Section 6521 was not met or satisfied, it is evident that branding is not a medical procedure and does not fall within the statutory definition of the practice of medicine.”
Roberts was authorized to practice medicine in New York in 2008. After residency from 2011 to 2020 she worked in private practices on LI and in Manhattan as a physician and medical director, served as a hospitalist at St. Peters Hospital, and Columbia St Mary’s in WI. No allegations were made by actual patients or colleagues against Roberts’ clinical abilities or integrity as a physician.
The case in effect boiled down to the compelling testimony of Sarah Edmondson.