Chiropractor accused of sexual impropriety keeps his license

A chiropractor who has faced several allegations of sexual impropriety with patients can continue practicing in Iowa. (Photo courtesy of the Iowa Board of Nursing)

An Iowa chiropractor who has faced allegations of sexual impropriety with patients can keep his license while taking periodic lie-detector  tests, a state board has ruled.

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.

In January, the board formally charged Hoven with failure to comply with the order on psychotherapy evaluations. As part of a settlement agreement reached with the board this week, Hoven has admitted violating the board’s orders and promised to comply with a new, less stringent set of requirements that don’t include psychotherapy evaluations.

Among the conditions placed on his license:

  • He must maintain copies of his disciplinary orders for his employees to read.
  • He can see female patients only in the company of a female chaperone.
  • He must craft a policy that establishes a workplace free of sexual harassment.
  • He must submit to lie-detector tests once per year.

Hoven’s licensing troubles 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, but noted that Hoven had not “accepted full personal responsibility for the misconduct he engaged in.” 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.

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, and his grandiose sense of self-importance.

In 2014, the board agreed to reinstate Hoven’s license, but placed it on permanent probationary status subject to numerous restrictions. The board again required Hoven to 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.