A lawsuit filed Thursday asserts that an Anchorage neurosurgeon used an iPhone to improperly photograph the genitals of a patient during spinal surgery, then sent the picture to another person for entertainment.
The patient was under general anesthesia at Providence Alaska Medical Center on Dec. 8 when Dr. Louis L. Kralick "pulled up the draping covering (the patient's) genitalia," and snapped one or more pictures, according to the complaint filed in Alaska District Court in Anchorage.
The doctor forwarded the image to his wife or another third party for their "amusement and/or titillation," according to the complaint.
"There was no valid medical reason, justification, or excuse for Kralick's actions," and the patient did not consent to the action, the complaint says.
Kralick has not been charged with a crime, but Providence Alaska Medical Center investigated the matter and informed police, a hospital spokesman said.
"We do not have any public statement to make on any open investigation wherein no one has been charged," said MJ Thim, an Anchorage police spokesman.
A complaint was also filed against Kralick with the Alaska State Medical Board, a board spokesman said.
A statement sent Friday by the office of David Shoup, Kralick's attorney in the case, said the allegations against Kralick are "completely and utterly false."
"Dr. Kralick is a well-known and highly regarded neurosurgeon," said the statement, emailed Friday. "The claims being made against him will be vigorously defended."
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the patient by David Henderson, a medical malpractice and personal injury attorney in Anchorage. Henderson sent the complaint to reporters Thursday, along with a media release.
Henderson also released an apology letter he said came from Kralick. The letter, dated Jan. 5, did not provide details about the doctor's behavior.
"Please consider this a letter of apology for inappropriate conduct on my part in the operating room on Dec. 8, 2017, while you were in the hospital," it says. "While I did not intend my actions to be disrespectful, I can understand why some members of the operating room staff might have thought otherwise, and as a result I sincerely apologize."
The patient, 49, is not named in the suit to avoid embarrassment, the release said.
"Of course none of this was with the patient's knowledge or consent," Henderson said in his statement. "It's just outrageous."
The lawsuit names Kralick and Providence Alaska Medical Center as defendants. It seeks at least $100,000 in compensatory damages.
In response to questions about the complaint, Providence on Friday sent a media statement saying it became aware of a "potential violation of patient privacy" in December.
"We immediately launched an internal investigation and notified appropriate authorities," said the statement, emailed by Mikal Canfield, a hospital spokesman. "Ultimately, we identified that the privacy breach could be a violation of Alaska criminal statute. Providence then contacted law enforcement."
Providence named neither the doctor nor the patient in its statement. It could not provide information about the case because it is pending in court and because of patient privacy concerns, the hospital's statement said.
"Providence is fully cooperating with the appropriate authorities," the statement said.
Kralick is not an employee of Providence but has "privileging rights" at the Anchorage hospital, meaning he can treat patients there, Canfield said. Those rights are still in place, Canfield said Friday.
Messages left for Kralick, including by phone at Anchorage Neurosurgical Associates where state business records show he is part owner, were not returned.
Kralick also retains privileging rights at Alaska Regional Hospital, said Sonja Richison, medical staff manager, on Friday.
"We are currently following our bylaws and credentials policy, and we have to do that to ensure both our patients and staff are protected while the physician is getting his due process," she said.
The lawsuit claims the patient learned what the doctor had done after the surgery. A Providence employee involved in legal compliance for the hospital also learned about the incident and told Kralick to delete the unauthorized image or images, the complaint alleges.
That compliance officer is not a defendant in the case, and is not named in the complaint. But the complaint says the doctor and the compliance officer acted with "reckless indifference" and were engaged in a "civil conspiracy." Providence is named as a defendant because of the compliance officer's actions, Henderson's press release said.
Providence contacted the Anchorage Police Department to report Kralick's "criminal activity," the suit alleges.
"Although Providence's operating room staff cooperated with the (police) investigation — Dr. Kralick did not," the complaint says. "He refused to give a statement to the police or participate in an interview. The police seized his phone and placed it in evidence. Even then, Kralick refused to provide his iPhone's password. The police have not been able to access the device."
Asked in an email if the Alaska State Medical Board had received a complaint involving the allegations against Kralick, Greg Francois, chief investigator for the Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing, said the division had.
"My understanding is the medical board is investigating the matter," Henderson said Friday. "I don't know who filed the complaint to the medical board."