The state of New Hampshire is investigating Dr. Terry Bennett, who is accused of telling a patient she was so obese she might only be attractive to black men and advising another to shoot herself following brain surgery.
updated 8/30/2005 9:06:09 PM ET 2005-08-31T01:06:09

The state is investigating a doctor accused of telling a patient she was so obese she might only be attractive to black men and advising another to shoot herself following brain surgery.

“Let’s face it, if your husband were to die tomorrow, who would want you?” the state Board of Medicine says Dr. Terry Bennett told the overweight patient in June 2004.

“Well, men might want you, but not the types you want to want you. Might even be a black guy,” it quoted him as saying, based on the woman’s complaint.

The board said it also is taking a second look at a 2001 allegation — deemed unfounded at the time — that Bennett told a woman recovering from brain surgery to buy a pistol and shoot herself to end her suffering.

Bennett made national news last week when the complaint from the obese woman became public without any mention of the racial comment. But Senior Assistant Attorney General Richard Head, who leads the state Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau, said Tuesday the woman complained about the racial remark, not about being lectured.

In a telephone interview Tuesday from Rochester, Bennett denied any wrongdoing and defended his message to her, saying he has read polls that say black men prefer overweight women.

Bennett added that he is angry the board is reconsidering the 2001 complaint.

“That patient is currently in a nursing home completely demented, tied to a chair drooling on herself and doesn’t recognize anybody,” said Bennett, 67. “She was in pretty nearly that condition at the time she filed that complaint.”

Bennett’s lawyer, Charles Douglas, said his client is being attacked by the board, which, by its own rules, does not discipline doctors for bedside manner.

“If a patient does not like the message, go to another doctor,” Douglas said.

Head said the 2001 complaint is being considered as part of a review of Bennett’s overall adherence to medical ethics. The state Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau investigates complaints against doctors, though the board decides how to act on them.

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Head said privacy laws prevent him from disclosing the women’s names.

The board can fine, reprimand or suspend doctors. It also can revoke doctors’ licenses or require them to attend classes or treatment. A hearing is planned Dec. 7.

Earlier this year, Bennett rejected an effort by the board to resolve the latest complaint. The board wanted him to admit he had made a mistake and to attend a class on medical ethics, which he called “touchy-feely school.”

Bennett previously was cited by the board in 1995 when, as part of a settlement to avoid discipline, he admitted lying on his 1992 and 1993 medical license renewal applications about being denied hospital privileges. He was fined $1,000.

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