State lifts restrictions on optometrist

Kelly Cochrane must meet terms of probation set by the department.

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Although his professional license remains on probation indefinitely, a former Walla Walla optometrist no longer has limitations placed on his ability to practice.

In a conclusion signed Aug. 31, the Washington state Department of Health lifted restrictions from the license of Kelly J. Cochrane for unprofessional conduct.

Under terms of departmental probation the optometrist must have an approved office policy that includes an ethics and disclosure statement for clarification of professional and doctor-patient relationships. It must give information about Cochrane's past disciplinary measures and how to report inappropriate conduct.

The document must be at least 12-by-15 inches and posted in Cochrane's waiting room at his business, Great Basin Eye Care in Pasco.

He must also take 12 hours of classes in the areas of sexual abuse, gender issues and keeping professional boundaries, as well as submit a 1,000-words or more report about what he has learned from those classes.

Cochrane, a former Valley Vision partner and provider, was fired from the Walla Walla eye clinic in 2007 after being accused of sexually harassing three assistants at Valley Vision and attempting to kiss a longtime patient.

He was criminally charged in 2008 with two counts of indecent liberties by forcible compulsion for actions allegedly occurring between 2005 and 2007. He was acquitted in October of last year; health department sanctions remained, however.

Those included barring Cochrane from treating women or minors and employing women other than his wife.

Officials left room for changing that order once the eye doctor had passed a complete psychosexual exam.

In December, Cochrane submitted a petition to lift the restrictions, along with what the state alleged was "an altered and incomplete copy of a psychosexual evaluation."

Specifically, he "submitted only two and one-half pages of the five and one-half page psychosexual evaluation," officials said. "Respondent deleted both the title page and the page numbers, then removed several paragraphs and re-arranged the remaining paragraphs to make it appear as a seamless document."

In addition, the state said, that evaluation was done before the evaluator -- psychologist Stephen Rubin of Walla Walla -- had a copy of Cochrane's entire disciplinary file.

Those actions weren't revealed to officials until they questioned the date of the evaluation. At that time, information Cochrane had deleted was provided to the health department by his attorney, according to department documents.

Rubin's evaluation found Cochrane had "clearly crossed" professional boundary lines. The doctor needs understanding of how his actions affect others and that his conduct was "very damaging to the profession of optometry and to any practice he's involved in," the psychologist's report said.

Rubin, who took into consideration the jury's acquittal, said in his report Cochrane's "understanding has changed, in part, because of the extensive legal criminal complications, restrictions by these proceedings, and the expenses incurred."

Based upon Cochrane's submission of the incomplete report, officials found reason to question the optometrist's integrity and reliability, and at that time ordered his professional license to remain indefinitely restricted, health department documents said.

The psychosexual evaluation was deemed to have been completed, nonetheless, and in June Cochrane came back to the health department asking for modification of the sanctions.

Once Cochrane, who is responsible for all compliance costs, has satisfied the terms of his administrative probation he can request that it be lifted.

In his first public statement since his criminal trial, Cochrane responded to a request for comment with this: "The Department of Health's utilization of the term 'moral turpitude' dictated that I should have known I could have made my assistant uncomfortable."

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