Lawsuit accuses Santa Rosa oncologist of affair with woman under his care
An oncologist in the Sutter Health network is being sued by a Santa Rosa woman who claims he had an emotionally and physically abusive relationship with her while she was under his medical care.
The 20-page lawsuit, filed Thursday in Sonoma County Superior Court, accuses Dr. Peter Brett, who is part of Sutter Medical Group of the Redwoods, alleges he used his authority as a physician to manipulate the woman, Sandi Gaytan, into a “co-dependent and sexual relationship,” taking advantage of Gaytan at a time when she was isolated and in poor physical and mental health.
“During the course of treatment … Brett used his powers and abilities as a physician and surgeon, and his knowledge and background to engage in sexual contact and sexual touching with Plaintiff while knowing that she would be vulnerable to this type of sexual touching,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit accuses Brett of medical negligence, infliction of emotional distress; breach of fiduciary duty and violation of state laws that prohibit doctors from having sex with patients.
It also names Sutter Medical Group of the Redwoods as a defendant, alleging the organization and some of its employees were negligent and knew or should have known about the inappropriate relationship, which lasted nearly a decade, according to the complaint.
Brett, who works at a medical office building in northwest Santa Rosa, could not be reached for comment over two days and calls to his office were referred to Sutter Health’s media department.
An attorney with the law firm representing Brett said the allegations were “false and misleading” and that the oncology specialist plans to defend himself “vigorously.”
Brett and Gaytan met in the fall of 2008, in a creative writing class at Santa Rosa Junior College; Gaytan was 24 at the time and Brett, now 59, was married, according to the lawsuit.
Brett and Gaytan became friends, according to the complaint, and in late 2008, Gaytan told Brett she was leaving Santa Rosa to take a job as a nanny in Tiburon, and that she needed to quit smoking.
Brett “suggested that she take Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant medication that, in a low dose, was used to help smokers quit,” the lawsuit states. He prescribed the medication for her but did not discuss any possible side effects, according to the suit.
“Within a week, I was losing my mind,” Gaytan said during an interview this week.
She said she was unable to control her temper and started being cruel to people, including friends.
Brett visited her frequently in Tiburon and they would often consume alcohol, even though she was taking Wellbutrin, which can have harmful effects when combined with alcohol. Gaytan became increasingly dependent on Brett, the complaint states.
“He persuaded (her) to let him treat her for all of her medical issues, visited her wherever she moved to, and began paying her rent in increasing amounts,” the lawsuit states.
The two started having sex in September 2009, about a year after they met and while Gaytan was living in Corte Madera, according to the suit.
At one point, Brett rented a home for them to share and paid the rent and utilities, the suit alleges.