The state of California has taken its first formal action to end the medical career of Santa Clara County’s former chief pediatrician for children in foster care, 20 years after allegations surfaced that he had sexually abused boys living in his home and patients as young as 6 years old.
An accusation filed Friday by the state attorney general seeks to pull the medical license of Patrick Clyne, 59, charging him with “unprofessional acts” and “gross negligence” based on his treatment of six patients, ages 6 to 16. The filing details accounts of sexually abusive exams on children in Clyne’s private practice near Watsonville between 2014 and 2019, alleging he told them to walk naked in his office and examined their genitals without gloves or apparent medical necessity.
The recent accusations are strikingly similar to reports about Clyne’s exams that Santa Clara County health, law enforcement and medical authorities have received since 2001.
“I’m furious that here we are 15, 20 years later, and there are six more victims of this guy,” said Dana Scruggs, a Santa Cruz County attorney representing a former foster youth who sued Clyne last year alleging he sexually abused him as a young child. “Over a period of 20 years, with the number of kids that have come forward: What is he doing with a license to practice medicine?”
Attempts on Monday to reach Clyne at his office and through his attorney were unsuccessful. But in the past, he has denied allegations from more than a dozen children — abused and neglected kids who lived with him when he was a licensed foster parent, or whom he treated in the Santa Clara County children’s shelter or public hospital — describing their reports as lies or misunderstandings. He has never been arrested.
Clyne, who in recent years has been practicing pediatrics with low-income clients in a rural, immigrant community south of Santa Cruz, can fight the medical board and the Attorney General’s Office in the administrative courts, if he chooses. He can also continue to practice medicine until his case is resolved.
It isn’t clear why the medical board took action now, and a spokesperson declined to comment Monday, citing the confidentiality of an ongoing case.
In addition to allegations of improper exams, the Feb. 19 filing accuses Clyne of failing to properly prescribe and monitor psychotropic prescriptions for patients with attention-deficit disorders. The rare scrutiny follows a Mercury News investigation that led to a 2016 state law requiring the medical board to prioritize “investigations of repeated acts of excessive prescribing, furnishing, or administering psychotropic medications to a minor.”
Abuse allegations against Clyne surfaced most recently in a civil suit filed in Santa Cruz Superior Court last year on behalf of Kyle, a former foster youth identified by first name only. Kyle has long told authorities that Clyne sexually abused him, beginning when he was 8 years old and placed in the pediatrician’s home between 1995 and 1998.
And according to court records, Clyne has been accused of sexual abuse for decades by Santa Clara County social workers, parents, guardians, therapists, a juvenile probation officer and staff at two residential group homes, mostly based on the accounts of 13 children placed in his care, beginning in 2001.
Prosecutors never charged him, but in 2011, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office — which had relied on Clyne as an expert witness in child abuse cases — notified defense attorneys that there was “substantial evidence that Dr. Clyne committed multiple crimes of moral turpitude, specifically sexual assaults.”
Based on that account, Santa Clara County fired Clyne that same year, removing him from his job of 14 years.
Two years later, the California Department of Social Services barred Clyne from ever becoming a foster parent again and prohibited him from working with any children or adults in state-licensed facilities.
Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith, the official who fired Clyne, called this latest development “bittersweet — very bitter, a little bit sweet.”
“It’s really sad that the medical board didn’t take action much earlier in the process,” Smith said. “It would have prevented additional victims from suffering.”
Kyle, who is now 35 and lives in the East Bay, called the new filing both heartening and devastating.
“Twenty years ago, I tried to tell people about this,” he said in an interview Monday.
Kyle said he is pleased that there are finally efforts to pull Clyne’s medical license, but added: “It’s really mind-boggling how he’s still getting away with it.”
Karen de Sá is a former investigative reporter for The Mercury News and The San Francisco Chronicle and is now executive editor of The Imprint, a nonprofit news outlet covering child welfare and juvenile justice. She can be reached at [email protected].
Chuck Carroll contributed to this story.