Report: Too many docs keep licenses after sexual misconduct

State medical boards aren't doing enough to protect patients from physicians known to have engaged in sexual misconduct, according to a Public Citizen report published by PLOS ONE.

The research is based on analysis of a decade's worth of reports made to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), the only national repository of disciplinary actions taken by state medical boards and peer review committees as well as reports of malpractice payments made on behalf of physicians.

Upon dissecting the 2003 to 2013 reports, the consumer watchdog found that sexual misconduct-related reports accounted for only 1 percent of the total reports in the NPDB. But the research suggested that figure may represent only the tip of the iceberg into crimes that patients are often reluctant to report, according to an article from Corporate Crime Reporter.

Part of the reason so little physician sexual misconduct is reported, Public Citizen suggested, is that reports do little to stop perpetrators from practicing medicine. State medical boards failed to discipline 70 percent of the 253 physicians who had engaged in sexual misconduct that led to sanctions by hospitals or other healthcare organizations or a malpractice payment, according to the analysis.

When medical boards did discipline physicians in response to sexual misconduct, however, they took serious licensure actions, including revoking, suspending or restricting the medical license, in 89 percent of cases.

"These numbers show that when state medical boards take action, the action rightly tends to be much more severe for physicians who engaged in sexual misconduct than other offenses," Sidney Wolfe, M.D., founder and senior adviser of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, told the publication. "Now, the medical boards need to pay increased attention to sexual misconduct that led to healthcare organizations cracking down or to lawsuits. State medical boards have full access to the NPDB data. The boards must protect the public."

To learn more:
- see the report
- read the article