COLUMBIA, Tennessee — A crooked doctor borrowed $300,000 from an elderly patient and then declared that she had dementia when she tried to recoup the cash, authorities said.
Suellen Lee, 79, has given up her medical license after officials discovered that she took the sizable loan from a longtime patient and then diagnosed her with the dementia when she asked for the money back, state health records show.
Lee, an internal medicine specialist, insisted she had been “set up” by her patient and only retired because she thought she couldn’t win her case.
“It was all lies and I was told that if I fought it would be extremely costly to me,” Lee told the Tennessean newspaper. “And there would still be no benefit. There was no chance of reversal.”
Officials said Lee borrowed the money after her medical clinic fell into financial straits.
The patient had been treated by Lee for 25 years and had once been a personal friend and a co-worker. State records say Lee sent a letter about the woman’s diagnosis to her daughter, who in turn forwarded the letter to the patient’s bank, which then blocked her access to her accounts..
When questioned by investigators, Lee admitted that she had made the diagnosis based off of “observation” alone, and did not use any testing method or seek a second opinion from a mental health professional.
A psychologist who later assessed the patient, found “no indication of dementia,” the records say.
Lee said the case wasn’t as it appeared, and that she had borrowed the money 20 years ago and had regularly paid it back in installments. She also stood by her diagnosis, which occurred about two years ago, saying the patient’s behavior had grown erratic behavior and she showed signs of memory loss. Lee insisted her former patient later misled the psychologist.
“She wanted to hurt me because she was so angry with me, because I had said that she was demented,” Lee said.