A California pediatrician, known partly for his controversial views on immunization schedules, faces the possible suspension of his license after the executive director of the California Medical Board accused him of being “grossly negligent in his care and treatment” of a child patient.
Dr. Robert Sears of Orange County, California, first drew attention after publishing a book in 2007 called "The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child" and introducing what he calls an "alternate" vaccine schedule.
His work has made him popular with parents who remain skeptical of common vaccines despite overwhelming medical evidence that they are safe as currently scheduled and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics.
Richard Jaffe, an attorney for Dr. Sears told ABC News, "We take the medical board's accusation seriously. But this case is very clear: this child had two unusual and severe vaccine reactions and his situation warrants a medical exemption. To continue vaccination puts the child at risk of further harm."
"We anticipate this case will do much to further public education on the importance of recognizing severe vaccine reactions and providing informed consent for medical care," Jaffe added.
Dr. Sear's work has also frustrated some pediatricians and health officials who point out that there is no approved "alternate" vaccination schedule that is safe and approved by major health organizations.
The doctor is now facing a possible hearing before the California Medical Board over allegations he was grossly negligent during his interaction with the toddler cited in the complaint. Sears and the board will first meet in a Sept. 20 settlement conference, where he can bring counsel, according to the medical board.
If no settlement is reached, the matter will go to a hearing before an administrative law judge. The judge will make a proposed decision that will be reviewed by the medical board, which makes the final decision, according to the board.
Sears recommended the toddler never get another childhood vaccine because of the "severity" of the reaction to earlier vaccination, according to the Medical Board complaint filed with the state Sept. 2.
The board claims in the document that Sears did not have enough information to make such a recommendation.
In the document released by the Medical Board of California, Sears is accused of multiple counts of negligence, including not taking basic information before recommending the toddler no longer receive any other childhood vaccinations; failing to conduct neurological testing on the patient when the toddler reported having a headache from head trauma; and failing to maintain adequate records because he did not keep a copy of the letter that exempted the child from further vaccinations.
He is subject to disciplinary action that could include revoking or suspending his license.
Complaints against California physicians can be made by patients or other members of the public, spurring the medical board to review. If the board's initial review finds evidence of a violation, the case will be investigated by a state deputy attorney general and an investigator who is an expert in the physician's field.
If the deputy attorney general finds there is enough evidence they will bring a formal accusation against the physician which can result in either a settlement or an administrative hearing held before an administrative law judge, who makes a recommendation to the medical board.
The board has not identified who lodged the initial complaint against Sears.
Officials from the California Medical Board said they do not release information beyond a formal complaint prior to a settlement conference or hearing.
Sears has defended his alternative schedules, telling the Los Angeles Times in 2014 that they “allow parents to get vaccinations in a way they're more comfortable” with.
California enacted a strict vaccination law last year that required school children to be vaccinated and banned exemptions based on personal or medical beliefs. The law was enacted after the state faced multiple outbreaks in recent years of vaccine-preventable diseases including measles and whooping cough.