Sexual misconduct: U.S. isn't alone in struggle for proper punishment for docs

The problems in Canada show that the situation is complicated and requires constant scrutiny.

The United States isn’t the only country that has failed to protect patients from physicians who have engaged in sexual misconduct.

Canada has also had its share of troubles, despite its efforts to mandate punishment for predatory doctors, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Two decades ago, Ontario instituted a law to revoke the licenses of all doctors who engaged in sexual abuse. But a series of newspaper articles three years ago found several loopholes, which led to the establishment of a government task force to study the issue, according to the AJC.

Among the task force’s 34 recommendations: Automatic revocation of licenses for some sex acts by doctors involving patients, additional access to therapy and counseling for their victims, and easier access for patients to obtain all relevant information about a doctor’s history of misconduct and any disciplinary action.

The AJC notes that the proposals are vastly different than the discipline U.S. doctors face upon accusations of sexual misconduct. Two months ago the newspaper’s investigation revealed that few states in the U.S. have a comprehensive set of laws to protect patients. Instead of focusing on the victims, states in the U.S. generally look at the physician's potential for rehab, and many medical boards protect doctors by withholding information about their history of misconduct.

“Instead of looking out for victims or possible victims or protecting our society, we’re protecting doctors,” Rep. Kimberly Williams, a Democrat and member of the Delaware General Assembly who sponsored a patient-protection bill last year, told the Journal-Constitution in November.

But the problems in Canada show that the situation is complicated and requires constant scrutiny, Gary Schoener, a Minnesota psychologist who deals with abusive doctors, told the newspaper in the latest article.

It’s difficult to know which country has the bigger problem, the AJC noted. That's because there is little transparency in disciplinary proceedings in the United States, and Canada has far fewer practicing physicians.