Chiropractor accused of sexual improprieties faces new charges
A central Iowa chiropractor who has been accused of sexual impropriety with patients on three separate occasions is facing new charges from state regulators.
In March 2023, the Iowa Board of Chiropractic charged Stuart Hoven of Winterset with unethical conduct for behavior that includes engaging in a sexual or emotional relationship with a former patient; habitual intoxication or addiction to the use of drugs; failure to comply with the terms of a previous board order; unethical conduct or behavior that includes improper sexual contact with, or making suggestive, lewd, lascivious or improper remarks or advances to a patient, client or coworker; and exhibiting unprofessional behavior in connection with the practice of chiropractic.
The alleged conduct that gave rise to those alleged violations has not been publicly disclosed by the board pursuant to a 2021 Iowa Supreme Court order that restricts the release of such information until a case is resolved. A hearing on the charges was initially set for last April but has been rescheduled three times and is now planned for late October.
Recently, however, the board filed a new set of charges against Hoven, alleging he has failed to comply with the terms of an unspecified board order or settlement agreement.
As with the charges levied in March, the underlying allegations against Hoven are being kept confidential. However, the case number assigned to the new charges is the same as a 2012 case that resulted in restrictions on Hoven’s license due to alleged sexual improprieties with patients.
License restrictions eased after initial charges
Hoven’s issues with the board date back 20 years, 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.
2012 case resulted in more sanctions
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.
In January 2021, 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, Hoven admitted violating the board’s orders and he promised to comply with a new, even less stringent set of requirements that didn’t include psychotherapy evaluations.
Among the conditions placed on his license at that time: He was required to maintain copies of his disciplinary orders for his employees to read; he was barred from seeing female patients without a female chaperone; he had to craft a policy that established a workplace free of sexual harassment; and he had to submit to lie-detector tests once per year.