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Scott DesJarlais

NASHVILLE - A Washington-based group says it has filed a complaint against U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., a physician, for "conducting an inappropriate sexual relationship with a patient in violation of the law" a dozen years ago.

"Tennessee law is crystal clear," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in a statement.

She said "doctors are prohibited from engaging in sexual relationships with patients. The only question remaining is, now that Tennessee authorities are aware of Rep. DesJarlais' blatantly unethical and scurrilous conduct, what are they going to do about it?"

DesJarlais, a Jasper Republican, came under attack from Democrats last week after the release of a transcript of a recorded conversation he had with an unnamed woman. In the phone conversation, DesJarlais, who treated the woman briefly for an ankle injury, presses the woman, who blamed him for her pregnancy, to get an abortion. He also urges her to get an ultrasound.

Health Department spokeswoman Shelley Ladd Walker said today that "anyone can file a complaint" against a doctor. Complaints that can be substantiated are passed on to the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners, which disciplines physicians and other health professionals.

The board never reveals the names of those who file complaints.

In a Times Free Press interview last week, DesJarlais acknowledged the sexual relationship and that the transcript was genuine. But he said "there was no pregnancy and there was no abortion" and he knew it at the time.

He explained that was because it had been four months since he had seen the woman and she would have showed signs of pregnancy.

In the transcript, the woman tells DesJarlais "it's your fault for sleeping with your patient."

He objects and adds, "You were asking me out. It's not like I came chasing my patients down to go for a date."

The congressman has come under attack from his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Eric Stewart, over the matter.

For complete details, see tomorrow's Times Free Press