Dr. James Grierson volunteers for MercyWatch in this file photo from 2019. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Dr. James Grierson volunteers for MercyWatch in this file photo from 2019. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Marysville doctor suspended, sued over sex with Providence patient

Dr. James Grierson’s physician license was suspended for three years. Providence leadership pleaded with the state for leniency.

MARYSVILLE — A Providence doctor turned his exam room at a Marysville clinic into a “love den” where he used his position of trust to have sex with a patient, alleges a lawsuit filed last week.

In September, the state Department of Health suspended Dr. James Grierson’s physician license for three years after he acknowledged repeated sex with the patient. Before being reinstated, Grierson will have to pay a $2,000 fine and undergo a mental health evaluation with a focus on sexual misconduct.

In October, Providence Medical Group Northwest’s Chief Medical Officer Stephen Campbell pleaded with the Department of Health not to suspend Grierson. In a letter obtained by The Daily Herald, he lauded Grierson’s accomplishments.

“It is not my place to speculate on why Dr. Grierson had a recent lapse in professional judgement. But it is my place to declare this lapse to be inconsistent with, what I perceive as Dr. Grierson’s core values,” Campbell wrote, adding, “I would request that, given Dr. Grierson’s history, he not be reprimanded any further, as any punishment could very well negatively impact the many members of Snohomish and Island County whom Dr. Grierson serves.”

Grierson and Providence Health & Services now face a lawsuit from the doctor’s patient in Snohomish County Superior Court.

“Legally, a patient cannot consent to a romantic or sexual relationship with their doctor,” the woman’s lawyer Cheryl Snow said, referring to the power imbalance inherent in that relationship.

The lawsuit claims the patient was traumatized by the relationship. Financial compensation from a possible resolution to the lawsuit would be used to get counseling, the attorney noted.

“No one questions that my client needed medical care and, like most people, she’ll always continue to need medical care on and off at some point,” Snow said, “so to lose confidence in the medical field is concerning.”

Snow said her client “just wants some justice.”

Grierson, 50, was featured in The Herald in 2019 for his work as a volunteer with MercyWatch providing medical help to people living on the streets of Snohomish County. He also founded the Safe Harbor Free Clinic in Stanwood. And he volunteered as a doctor for the Stanwood High School varsity football team, most recently for the 2021 season, a school district spokesperson said.

Grierson couldn’t be reached for comment.

In 2018, the patient, an Island County woman, and her family started seeing Grierson at the Marysville clinic, the complaint states.

In 2020, he delivered her baby, according to the order suspending the doctor’s license. He also reportedly diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder and wrote her over a dozen prescriptions.

In early 2021, their intimate relationship began after the woman reported marital issues. In the ensuing months, they had sex at least four times, including once in an exam room at the clinic, the lawsuit alleges.

“In so doing, Dr. Grierson turned a Providence Clinic exam room into a love den where he dispensed pills, billed for his services, and sought sexual gratification,” the lawsuit reads. “Dr. Grierson violated his patient’s trust, exploited information gained through his position, preyed on his patient’s vulnerabilities, and inflicted immeasurable damage and harm.”

Grierson sent his patient romantic messages over text and through MyChart, where patients communicate with their doctor, according to the complaint.

In August 2021, the woman reportedly told a counselor about the relationship, leading to a mandatory report to the state medical commission.

State code says: “It is not a defense that the patient, former patient, or key third party initiated or consented to the conduct, or that the conduct occurred outside the professional setting.”

In September 2021, the state Department of Health began investigating, the complaint states.

The next month, Grierson acknowledged having sex with his patient on at least four occasions, but denied sexual contact on Providence property, according to the lawsuit.

Soon after, the doctor and patient spoke in a parking lot. Grierson told her he was concerned about the consequences of authorities knowing they had sex in the exam room, according to the state’s findings. He asked if she’d recant her report.

In another meeting, he pressured the woman to sign a statement recanting that part of her allegations, the lawsuit alleges. She refused.

“I don’t understand,” Grierson reportedly told her. “I’m going to lose my license. You did this to me.”

Snow, of the Friedman Rubin law firm in Seattle, argued there’s “no doubt that there was professional misconduct.”

“I think it’s trying to right the wrong,” the attorney said of the lawsuit.

In a statement, a Providence spokesperson said the hospital system is “committed to maintaining an environment of safety, respect, and dignity.”

“We have zero tolerance for unacceptable behavior of any kind and have policies and protocols to facilitate reporting, thoroughly investigate and take personnel action, as needed,” the statement reads. “We take all patient complaints and concerns seriously and take steps to address them, in line with protocols outlined by the Washington Medical Commission and other appropriate regulatory agencies. Guided by our Mission and core values, we are committed to ensuring a safe and positive workplace and a place of healing for all.”

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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