Doctors who sexually abuse their patients too often get away with it because of weak oversight, sympathetic regulators, and their capacity to move around to elude punishment, a new investigation has found.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution says it spent months, scrutinized more than 100,000 medical board disciplinary orders from across the nation, and found too many disturbing instances where perverse physicians harmed patients but escaped punishment or received only a slap on the wrist.
The paper, as others who have considered doctor discipline have discovered, encountered many roadblocks to finding even basic information about problem MDs. Their misdeeds, and administrators’ and regulators’ decisions about them, all too often were kept secret and out of public view.
Meantime, the AJC says it found evidence of “disturbing acts of physician sexual abuse in every state. Rapes by OB/GYNs, seductions by psychiatrists, fondling by anesthesiologists and ophthalmologists, and molestations by pediatricians and radiologists. Victims were babies. Adolescents. Women in their 80s. Drug addicts and jail inmates. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse.”
The paper found that victims struggled to win justice for themselves after they were attacked. Their doctors often were esteemed in their communities and had great official credibility. They also had money and were shielded by other MDs, hospitals, medical boards, and even law enforcement.
For victims, the site offers a state by state breakdown of resources and basic legal information about reporting doctors for sexual wrong-doing.
Kudos to the AJC for taking on this problem, whose persistence should raise basic, deep, and disturbing ethical questions for the majority of medical caregivers who aren’t sexual felons and are revolted by this wrong-doing by colleagues.
As I’ve written about other situations where regulators, lawmakers, and practitioners can’t seem to remedy grave woes, this terrible situation may need redress with lawsuits in the civil justice system. Victims, if they cannot secure justice in other ways, may need to publicly expose physician predators in court, and make them pay major civil judgments. As the highly publicized, recent broadcast documentaries about the OJ Simpson-Nicole Brown-Ron Goldman homicide case remind, the different standard to secure a civil victory versus a criminal conviction may be key to aggrieved plaintiffs.