Dentist surrenders license

Chico dentist Robert Feder has agreed to give up his license rather than fight state Dental Board claims that he overmedicated his patients, practiced while using prescription drugs and committed various other violations of his profession’s code of conduct.

Essentially, Feder said, the settlement spells his retirement from dentistry. The 55-year-old is focusing his attentions on the planned Jan. 24 opening of Mind Games, an upscale arcade he recently got the city’s OK to create downtown at Second and Main streets.

By settling with the board, Feder waived his right to a hearing that had been scheduled for this week and won’t be able to practice dentistry in California effective Jan. 22. In three years, he can apply to be reinstated, if he agrees to pay $22,033 to reimburse the board for the investigation and prosecution, according to a “stipulation, decision and order” signed by Feder on Dec. 4, 2001.

“The bottom line is, I want to move on,” said Feder, who said he had planned for some time to retire his license and open Mind Games, eventually expanding the concept to other cities.

“No admissions are made at this time,” clarified Karyn Dunn, the Dental Board investigator in charge of the case and interim chief of the enforcement program. She said that, by signing the document, Feder agreed that if he ever applied to the government for a professional license, he’d then be conceding the charges.

The order goes on to list most of the original accusations, including that he gave patients excessive amounts of Valium before dental surgery; didn’t properly maintain a drug log; “practiced dentistry while under the influence of Vicodin and Darvocet"; and wrote prescriptions after he had given up his permit to do so.

Feder said he took Vicodin for a chronic sinus infection, never when he was working on anyone, and that other elements of the accusation were similarly blown out of proportion. He signed the agreement, he said, only because he didn’t want to spend his time and money—about $40,000 he’d owe the state for its costs if he lost at the hearing—"for a license I don’t want to use. … That’s an awful lot to pay for ego, pride, satisfaction—that kind of stuff.” Still, he said, it was a “very hard” decision to sign the document.

Feder, whose practice focused on fearful patients in need of extractions or root canals, has maintained that he is the victim of an overzealous investigation at the Dental Board.

“Once these things are filed, they take on a life of their own,” he said, and the administrative-law process is one in which it seems “you’re guilty until proven innocent.”

“It was unlikely I was going to go through this hearing without being put on probation,” Feder said, mainly because the oversedation issue would be hard to defend.

The investigation culminated in a 10-page accusation submitted by the state Attorney General’s Office, to which only 89 of California’s nearly 27,000 dentists were referred last year.

Dunn said that, although some dentists do end up surrendering their licenses, “it’s not as common as actually going to [a] hearing.”

In the last couple of years, Feder has been sued for malpractice three times in Butte County. One case was dismissed and the others have February trial dates.