‘Shrink Next Door’ Doctor Is Ordered to Surrender New York License
(Bloomberg) -- The psychiatrist who was the focus of Bloomberg’s “The Shrink Next Door” podcast was ordered to surrender his license to practice in New York after violating professional standards in dealings with several patients.
A five-member hearing committee convened by the state’s Department of Health determined that the psychiatrist, Isaac “Ike” Herschkopf, violated “minimal acceptable standards of care in the psychotherapeutic relationship.” In an order filed Tuesday, the committee said it had found Herschkopf guilty of all counts of professional lapses alleged by the state including gross negligence, incompetence, exercising undue influence, fraudulent practice and moral unfitness.
Herschkopf’s professional practices were the subject of a multi-episode podcast released by Bloomberg and Wondery. “The Shrink Next Door,” which I hosted in 2019, explored Herschkopf’s relationship with several patients, primarily Marty Markowitz, who began seeing Herschkopf in Manhattan in 1981. Markowitz alleged that the doctor took increasing control of his life and finances — including engineering Markowitz’s split with his sister, becoming president of Markowitz’s fabric company and presiding over Markowitz’s summer home.
By all appearances, that home in the Hamptons was owned by Herschkopf, who used it for vacations and summer parties, while Markowitz appeared to be the caretaker. Markowitz and others described Herschkopf entertaining patients at pool parties at the house, a blurring of the lines between doctor and patient. By the fall of 2010, Markowitz severed his relationship with Herschkopf and reclaimed his home. He also began a yearslong effort to raise alarms to state authorities, in an attempt to see that the psychiatrist was punished for what Markowitz characterized as three decades of improper influence over his life.
New York’s Department of Health brought charges against Herschkopf a month after the podcast aired. The hearing panel’s decision was posted online Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m elated,” Markowitz, who testified at the hearing, said on Tuesday. “It is complete justification for all the agony and angst I went through these past 10 years. And the fact that they agreed with every single one of these allegations and accepted none of his makes it that much sweeter.”
Herschkopf and his lawyer, Anthony Scher, could not be reached for comment.
In addition to Markowitz, two other patients who participated in the podcast — who recounted their experiences under the pseudonyms Emily and Sarah — made allegations against Herschkopf that became part of health department’s case. Both women rewrote their wills to gift money to Herschkopf or members of his family. According to the order, Emily (identified as Patient B in the decision) made his daughters her sole heirs. Patient B didn’t testify at the hearing.
According to the order, when Sarah (Patient C) asked Herschkopf during a therapy session if she could name him in her will, he responded: “You wouldn’t be the first person asking me to do that. I would be fine with that.”
Herschkopf also held sessions while jogging with her. “Respondent provided Patient C with a ‘discount’ for these running sessions because she was an experienced runner and she was helping him train for a marathon,” according to the filing. The doctor “did not make progress notes for these sessions,” it said.
The panel also effectively agreed with the narrative Markowitz provided for “The Shrink Next Door,” that Herschkopf used his undue influence over his patient to his personal advantage. The panel cited the state’s expert witness, Dr. Stephen Price, saying that Herschkopf had exhibited a pattern of professional misconduct and that he had had inappropriate financial, social and business involvement with Markowitz and the other patients.
The panel rejected two primary defenses that Herschkopf has offered, including in the podcast — that Markowitz and Emily had transitioned from his psychiatric patients to his business clients, and that psychiatric ethics in the 1980s didn’t prevent a doctor from having a social or business relationship with a patient. The hearing panel said that throughout the proceedings, Herschkopf “showed little insight or remorse, often portraying himself as a victim,” according to the filing. Of the 16 charges brought by the Department of Health, the Hearing Committee found for the state on all of them.
Although Herschkopf can appeal the ruling, he is nonetheless required to surrender his medical license within five days of receiving the decision —“to protect the people of the state of New York,” according to the panel.
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