HACKENSACK, N.J. -- A New Jersey physician is accused of stabbing her 13-year-old adopted daughter with a screwdriver at least 100 times because the girl failed to wash her dog's clothes properly, police and health officials said.
Dr. Sylvia S. Lee of Emerson, an allergist with offices in Wayne and Old Bridge, faces felony charges of aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child.
Her license to practice medicine was suspended at an emergency meeting of a committee of the state Board of Medical Examiners.
"When a physician so dangerously demonstrates a lack of judgment and impulse control, it becomes necessary to prevent that person from practicing," Thomas R. Calcagni, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said in a written statement Monday.
The alleged attack occurred in Lee's home in Emerson on July 3. Emerson police said they received a call from the girl about 1:30 p.m. after she fled to a former caretaker's house near her home, Lt. George Buono said.
"The girl was visibly upset and had some bruising and redness on her face, scrapes and small puncture wounds on different parts of her body," Buono said.
Though the blows from the screwdriver broke the skin and caused some bleeding, the wounds weren't deep and the child did not require hospitalization, officials said.
Lee, 58, was brought to police headquarters, where she admitted jabbing the child multiple times with a flathead screwdriver after the girl failed to wash "doggie clothes" and a "doggie towel" in the correct order, state officials said in announcing the suspension of Lee's medical license.
Lee told police she "got angry" and then added, "I was wrong and that's why I stabbed her so many times," according to a statement released Monday by the Division of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the medical board.
She admitted she had a problem and had hit the child in the past, including just days before when the girl brought her masking tape when she had asked for Scotch tape.
The statement also noted that Lee said she jabbed herself with the screwdriver the day before the alleged assault, "as hard as I jabbed (the child)," but she didn't believe she injured herself.
Police took dozens of photographs of the girl showing bruises and small bleeding punctures and other wounds on the girl's buttocks, legs and other parts of her body.
Buono said Lee stabbed the child "through her clothing," which may explain why the injuries weren't more serious.
Lee, who practiced at the Center for Asthma and Allergy, did not return phone calls on Monday.
Buono said the state Department of Children and Families was called in after the alleged assault and that the girl has been placed with another family.
Lee was released on $200,000 bail.
The state Attorney General's Office notified the Board of Medical Examiners about the charges against Lee, which convened a committee that took emergency action to suspend Lee's license.
The committee found that Lee demonstrates "a clear and imminent danger to the public health, safety and welfare," according to the statement from the Division of Consumer Affairs. Lee was ordered to cease medical practice and surrender her state Controlled Dangerous Substances registration and Drug Enforcement Administration registration.
The suspension, effective Aug. 18, was announced on Monday.
The medical board has not received any patient complaints against Lee. But it did note that "Dr. Lee admitted to planning the attack by trying the screwdriver on herself to see how painful it was the day before the incident," according to the statement.
This alleged conduct demonstrates "a degree of violence, significant lack of impulse control, impaired judgment and cognition," especially when compared to the "trivial nature of the incident" concerning the dog clothes, the statement said.
Based on this action, the board "can have no assurance that respondent's lack of control will not carry over to the workplace, where stressful situations are commonplace with patients and staff."
A full board is expected to review the committee's suspension at a Sept. 14 meeting. If the suspension is ratified, additional hearings will be held to determine if further discipline should be imposed.
Lee may appeal the board's decision in state Superior Court.
Lee practiced medicine at the Center for Asthma and Allergy, in offices in Wayne and in Old Bridge. The practice has 14 sites in New Jersey and four in New York.
Robert Conroy, an attorney who represents the practice, said Lee resigned at least a week ago.
"Whatever was involved was a personal issue and has nothing whatsoever to do with the practice," Conroy said.
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