Dr. Robert J. Sherman, the Washington abortionist whose medical license was revoked after the addmitted his negligence caused the death of a 16-year-old patient, is practicing general medicine and gynecology in this tiny suburb of Rickmond.
Sherman, who the District's Commission on Licensure to Practice the Healing Arts described as placing "very little value on the life of his abortion patients," was at work today in his three-story brick clinic along a main road here.
Sherman obtained a license to practice medicine in Virginia in 1958, according to Juanita Mayo, executive secretary of the Virginia State Board of Medicine, the state's medical licensing body.
The "license was issued by the endorsement of the (State of) Maine (licensing) board," she said. A doctor can receive a license to practice medicine in Virginia either by passing a test or be licensed in another state and have the approval of that state's board of medical examiners.
Mayo said the Virginia board was aware that Sherman had lost his District license, but said that Virginia cannot suspend or revoke Sherman's license until "We receive the court order (that) appeals" (have been exhausted). Virginia also could launch its investigation of Sherman's medical conduct, she said and revoke his Virginia license independent of action in the District. Board officials refused to say whether such action might be taken.
Sherman has aked the D.C. Court of Appeals to overturn the revocation of his license. In a bried filed with the court, Sherman's attorney, David Webster, said Sherman "is currently employed in a rural area of southern Virginia under the supervision of a physician in that area where he serves a population that has a great need for medical services and has historically been plagued with a shortage of physicians."
According to statistics prepared by the Virginia State Board of Medicine for fiscal year 1976-77, there are eight physicians in Highland Springs to serve 5,600 residents. The town's ratio of one doctor for each 700 citizens puts it a fraction of a percentage point above the national average. A clinic with three doctors and three dentists is a half mile down the road from sherman's office.
The sign in the front yard of the Henrico Medical Center lists the names of two physicians: Sherman in 2 3/4-inch-high letters and Richard E. Matthews in somewhat smaller type. Mary Milby, official manager of the clinics, said Matthews was out of town and she did not know when he would return.
Asked if she knew that Sherman's license had been revoked in the District, Milby replied, "Yes." But when asked if she knew that Sherman had been sued for malpractice at least 13 times since 1970, she looked startled and replied, "No comment".
Sherman, who walked into the blue-and-sliver wallpapered lobby dressed in an immaculate starched, traditional physician's white coat, said he has a "story now, but I'm not going to give it to you.
"I was instructed not to give the whole truth of the story to The Post", said Sherman, referring to the malpractice suit tried last September in which he admitted that his negligence resulted in the death of 16-year-old Rita C. McDowell.
Sherman said his attorney, Webster of the Washington firm of Williams and Connolly, told him never to speak to reporter from The Washington Post because the firm represents The Washington Post and would "defend The Post" if the paper were ever sued by Sherman.
Webster refused comment on Sherman's statement and said, "I'm not going to take any position which is contradictory to a client".
Morris Smith, a 22-year-old sheet metal worker who said he received a physical exam from Sherman yesterday morning, said "as a person I don't know him, as a doctor he's all right.
When informed to Sherman's record in the District, Smith said, "It doesn't change my opinion".
A young woman leaving the clinic said, "I heard about it (Sherman's losing his license in the District) on the news this morning. I was thinking about changing doctors. But I don't know. That's abortions and abortions are different."
In revoking Sherman's license, the Districts licensing board found that Sherman routinely used instruments to perform abortions that were too small to completely remove the fetus.
He would them instruct women to return for a second visit to complete the abortion for which he charged an additional $150.
Rita McDowell died of blood poisioning four days after Sherman performed an incomplete abortion on her.
According to affidavits filed in that case, Sherman ran a "sloppy, haphazard, improperly staffed, overcrowded clinic . . . "Rita was an accident waiting to happen".
The commission found that Sherman's "primary interest was the abortion fee and the followup attitional . . . fee of $150 he could extact. These fees were paramount over the patient."
In addition, the commission found that in Sherman's D.C. clinic cotton swabs were used to clean one patient and were then put back into a bottle of antiseptic solution. The commission also found that some plastic disposable instruments were reused so many times that the tips were broken off" . . . and in some instances . . . tissue was still clinging to the instrutment while being sterilized . . .
Copies of the commission's decision to medical authorities in Maryland, where Sherman has a license to practice, as well as to Virginia, according to David Krause, chief of the District's occupational and professional licensing division.
Sherman has applied for a license to practice medicine in Nevada, Krause said, and medical authorities there have been notified of the D.C. acttion. The notices were mailed within the last week, Krause said.
Sherman is asking the D.C. Court of Appeals to review his license revocation in part because the commission relied upon a written concession of negligence in the McDowell death that Sherman said he was coered into signing.