State medical boards make it surprisingly easy for doctors accused--or even convicted--of sexually abusing their patients to keep practicing, according to a continuing investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Recent investigations have put the spotlight on the number of doctors keeping licenses after sexual misconduct, including a recent investigation in the Texas Statesman. The latest revelations from the Journal concern the way state medical boards respond to cases in which doctors find themselves subject to criminal charges. One article cites cases in which medical boards allow doctors to continue to practice as long as they have a chaperone when they see female patients. In other cases, doctors who have been convicted of sex offenses get declared rehabilitated after attending therapy. The investigation uncovered an Alabama case in which a doctor who “fondled patients, exposed himself and traded drugs for sex” was not even required to tell his patients about the conviction after he returned to practice.
As the Journal points out, medical regulators at the very least take a more tolerant view of sex offenders than society at large. More pointedly, the newspaper points out that the education and treatment centers at which doctors who commit sexual offenses receive therapy have “quietly proliferated over the past two decades.” While rehabilitation program administrators told the paper that therapy is not meant to be a punitive measure, the opinions of abused patients rarely get considered, in part because the nature of sexual abuse makes it difficult for victims to be part of the process, according to Reid Finlayson, head of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Professional Health. He says the idea of confronting a doctor with a victim in order to drive home the impact of the abuse is “a little awkward.”