Iowa chiropractor faces sanctions for violating order on lie-detector testing

(Photo: The Iowa Board of Nursing)

An Iowa chiropractor who is allowed to practice only while submitting to periodic lie-detector tests due to his alleged misconduct with female patients is again facing disciplinary action from the state.

In 2014, the Iowa Board of Chiropractic issued an order requiring Stuart Hoven of Winterset to submit to both periodic lie-detector, or polygraph, testing, as well as periodic psychotherapy evaluations. Since at least 2019, the board now alleges, it has not received any evidence of polygraph testing or psychotherapy evaluations, and it has formally charged Hoven with failure to comply with its previous order. Hoven says it’s a minor matter that he expects to have cleared up soon.

The board’s actions stem from a series of disciplinary actions that date back to 2003, when the Winterset police investigated allegations from two of Hoven’s patients. The patients independently alleged Hoven had improperly touched their breasts during separate examinations in his office. Hoven allegedly told one of the women he was “obsessed” with her breasts, adding “I can’t stop looking at them.”

State records indicate Hoven admitted to some of the alleged conduct during an interview with police. He was criminally charged with sexual exploitation, but the charge was later dismissed.

The board, however, accused Hoven of unethical conduct and after a hearing on the matter, concluded in April 2005 that Hoven had “willfully and repeatedly touched the breasts of two female patients without a valid clinical reason for doing so,” and had “willfully made inappropriate comments to two patients concerning their breasts.” The board suspended Hoven’s license pending a comprehensive sexual misconduct evaluation.

Three months later, the board reinstated Hoven’s license, but placed it on probationary status and required Hoven to receive counseling from the Center for Marital and Sexual Health. The board also ordered him to ensure a female chaperone was present in his exam room whenever he was seeing female patients, and to receive continuing education on professional boundaries.

In 2007, the board agreed to terminate the requirements for a female chaperone and ongoing education on professional boundary issues, but noted that Hoven had not “accepted full personal responsibility for the misconduct he engaged in, nor does it appear he is remorseful regarding the harm suffered by his patients.” In 2010, the board eliminated all restrictions on Hoven’s license.

In 2012, the board received a complaint that Hoven grabbed a female patient’s breast during an x-ray appointment. The board issued an emergency order, stating Hoven’s continued practice as a chiropractor constituted “an immediate danger to the public health, safety, and welfare,” but it allowed him to continue practicing subject to “monitoring and other interim safeguards.” Within a few months, a complaint of a similar nature was filed by another of Hoven’s female patients.

During a hearing on those complaints, Hoven allegedly argued that the previous suspension of his license was not a disciplinary action and that one of his alleged victims suffered from transference issues and had only imagined that he touched her inappropriately.

The board again suspended Hoven’s license and ordered him to submit to another assessment pertaining to professional sexual misconduct by the Behavioral Medicine Institute. According to the board, the institute determined Hoven could not safely return to practice at that time due to his need to be admired, his lack of empathy for others, his grandiose sense of self-importance, and a sense of entitlement.

In 2014, the board agreed to reinstate Hoven’s license, but placed it on permanent probationary status subject to numerous restrictions. The board required Hoven to again have a chaperone present with all female patients; to submit to psychotherapy evaluations; to submit to polygraph tests every six months to gauge whether he was maintaining proper boundaries with patients; and to meet regularly with a professional mentor.

In 2019, the board relaxed the requirement for polygraph testing, requiring the tests to be taken once a year rather than every six months.

A disciplinary hearing on Hoven’s alleged failure to meet the requirements of his probation is scheduled for April 14.

Board records indicate Hoven opened the Winterset Family Chiropractic in December 2001, and the Clarke County Chiropractic Clinic in Osceola in 2008. His clinics now operate under the name Chiropractic  1st.

Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.