It is not the case, says the Flemish former psychiatrist Frans-André (79), that ‘his task’ was limited to ‘prescribing some kind of medication’. At the start of his session, he had grabbed his head, his new hearing aid “isn’t working properly yet,” but now his voice is fierce and full of indignation.
The court president wants to know how Frans-André would describe the experience with his patient. “Was there a dependency relationship?”
She praised it heaven, Frans-André continues. “I was a new person to her, with an unusual approach that made us pay attention not only to her psychological well-being but also to her physical problem. She spoke about it in scents and colors, as they say in the Netherlands. Like a teen in love who saw happiness all at once.”
The chairman tries again: “Does a psychiatrist prevail over a patient?”
“As far as my experience is concerned, the answer is that I never had the upper hand. Certainly not in the Netherlands. That has to be written in capital letters: the patient is in control.”
“You’ve been to her house. Is it normal for a psychiatrist to visit patients at home?”
He gave his patient his private number and she gave him a house key.
The chairman: “She stated that you had sex with her. Is that right?”
“No, no! She was a lady who was well dressed and behaved very correctly.”
She did not like his comments and “Jewish jokes”, the patient told the police, but Frans-André – now retired and removed from the BIG register – seduced her. At her home they ate a cheese sandwich on Monday, fish salad on Tuesday and veal escalope on Wednesday, the chairman reads. To the suspect: “You shake no?” No, no, says Frans-André. Those are “things” that he “does not like.” But, yes, he has “crossed the doorstep three times.”
“Yes,” says the chairman. “Three times, that’s what she says. And that you had sex twice.” They were chatting, the patient explained, and then he told her to undress. Frans-André would have exacerbated her psychological complaints. She can’t bear to face him in court.
The Chairman: “Was it permitted by your employer’s protocol to have sex with patients?”
“What kind of question is this?! You don’t need to know the protocol for that! Sex with patients has been banned for decades.”
There is not much evidence of what happened on those days, although reports have survived. Frans-André takes the printed WhatsApp conversations from the briefcase that he keeps on his lap throughout the session. The patient sent him that she missed him. He responded: “This is one more disease!! Treatment is only possible for people who can keep an absolute secret.”
He underestimated his patient, says former psychiatrist Frans-André
What did he mean by that?, the chairman wants to know. He now says: “You have to remember that in her condition she can be very playful and provocative and very challenging, you have to take that into account.”
It’s about attention, explains Frans-André. “With these people, it’s way above the roof or way down in the basement, but it’s never gray.”
But, the chairman tries, “isn’t that the moment when you should have distanced yourself?” Frans-André has “underestimated her,” he says. “You could blame me for not being alert enough.”
The patient’s story is “unreliable”, says Frans-André’s lawyer. He also says that his client has been impotent and has erectile dysfunction for years.
The judge puts that aside. The psychiatrist is convicted of committing indecent acts with a patient and given a community service order of 60 hours – it has been taken into account that this took place in 2017 and the ‘reasonable time’ has been exceeded. That Frans-André “in no way” takes responsibility for his actions, the court considers him “seriously”.