Disciplinary Action against William E. Morton, M.D.

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
October 27, 2018

In 2001, as noted below, the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners charged William Morton, M.D. with negligence and unprofessional conduct in his management of six patients, all of whom he inappropriately diagnosed with porphyria. The case was settled with a stipulated order under which Morton retired his Oregon medical license. Morton’s propensity to overdiagnose porphyria was laid bare in 1998 when his expert testimony was offered in a case in which he had diagnosed a child with porphyria. An opposing expert noted that (a) porphyria is extremely rare, (b) Morton’s diagnoses were based on a Mayo Clinic test that had never been validated, and (c) during the previous 2-3 years, Morton diagnosed more than 60 cases, “a feat never before accomplished in medical history!” The judge concluded that Morton’s diagnosis of the child “was not derived by a scientific method” and that his testimony should be excluded. Morton died in 2018.


In the Matter of





The Board of Medical Examiners (Board) is the state agency responsible for licensing, regulating and disciplining certain health care providers, including physicians, in the State of Oregon. William Edwards Morton, MD (Licensee) is a licensed physician with an emeritus status in the State of Oregon.


The Board proposes to take disciplinary action pursuant to ORS 677.205 against Licensee for violations of the Medical Practices Act, to wit: ORS 677. 190(1)(a) unprofessional or dishonorable conduct, as defined in ORS 677. 188(4)(a)(b) and (c); and ORS 677.190(14) gross negligence or repeated negligence in the practice of medicine.


The acts and conduct alleged to violate the Medical Practices Act are:

3.1 During the time period of 1996 – 1998, Licensee erroneously diagnosed Patients A, B, C, and E with porphyria. Licensee erroneously diagnosed Patient D as suffering from “combination porphyria” and Patient F with “dual porphyria.” The history and laboratory tests for Patient F only supported a diagnosis of porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT). The histories provided by the patients, the examinations performed by Licensee and laboratory tests ordered by Licensee did not support Licensee’s diagnosis for Patients A-F.

3.2 Due to Licensee’s inappropriate diagnosis, Patients A – F received inappropriate treatments from either Licensee or other providers, or these patients failed to receive appropriate tests and treatments for underlying conditions that were excluded from Licensee’s diagnosis. Licensee also advised Patients A – F to avoid certain medications and/or to make significant lifestyle changes by avoiding certain foods, chemicals, prescription medications, employment positions, locations and activities. Licensee’s above described conduct includes but is not limited to the following:

a. Licensee’s misdiagnosis of Patient A with coproporphyria, a rare genetic form of porphyria with only 200 documented worldwide cases in medical history, resulted in this patient seeking and receiving inappropriate medications, including controlled substances and narcotics, for years.

b. Licensee failed to investigate a possible iron deficiency and anemia for Patient B. The continuation of phlebotomy treatments for this patient served no therapeutic purpose and put the patient at risk for further blood loss.

c. Patient C had a history of atrial fibrillation, as well as asthma, peptic ulcer disease and interstitial cystitis. But Licensee advised this patient to avoid therapeutic cardiac medications, such as digitalis, verapan1il, and diltiazem because they were deemed porphyrinogenic.

d. Patient D presented with abdominal pains, chronic diarrhea, bleeding hemorrhoids, involuntary movement disorders, cognitive impairment and chemical reactivity allegedly related to a chemical. Licensee failed to adequately evaluate Patient D’s gastrointestinal condition or neurologic symptoms.

e. Licensee failed to adequately evaluate Patient E’s gastrointestinal bleeding to rule out colon cancer.

f. Patient F had ongoing PCT as well as classic risk factors of alcohol use and hepatitis C. Licensee failed to conduct studies for the patient’s iron status, provided inappropriate treatment recommendations for this patient and failed to address Patient F’s use of alcohol.


Licensee is entitled to a hearing as provided by the Administrative Procedures Act (chapter 183), Oregon Revised Statutes. Licensee may be represented by counsel at the hearing.  If Licensee desires a hearing, the Board must receive Licensee’s written request for hearing within twenty-one (21) days of the mailing of this Notice to Licensee. Upon receipt of a request for a hearing, the Board will notify Licensee of the time and place of the hearing.


If Licensee requests a hearing, Licensee will be given information on the procedures, right of representation, and other rights of parties relating to the conduct of the hearing as required under ORS 183.413(2) before commencement of the hearing.


Failure by Licensee to request a hearing or failure to appear at any hearing scheduled by the Board will constitute waiver of the right to a contested case hearing and will result in a default order by the Board, including the assessment of such penalty and costs as the Board deems appropriate under ORS 677.205. If a default order is issued, the record of proceeding to date, including Licensee’s file with the Board and any information on the subject of the contested case automatically becomes a part of the contested case record for the purpose of proving a prima facie case. ORS 183.415(6).

DATED this 3rd day of December, 2001.

State of Oregon


This page was revised on Octiober 27, 2018.