Doctors and Sexual Misconduct
The Ventura County Star reports some alarming statistics from the California Medical Board about prosecution of doctors who engage in sexual misconduct with patients. They looked at reports over the past 6 years and found only 1 in 7 cases had any action taken at all. Of 680 reports of bad sexual behavior, only 123 doctors received any sanction.
As a physician, I pay $805 as a licensing fee to the Medical Board and that is to support them in their oversight role. We want them to make sure physicians live up to the ethical standards of the profession. Along with that, it is important for doctors to have due process against unwarranted complaints. Some patients might not realize that touching in a physical exam is not sexual in nature. Of course these reports need to be ferreted out.
A study was done in 2004 that showed only one analyst at the Medical Board covered all complaints of sexual, alcohol and drugs reported by patients or others against a physician, podiatrist or physician assistant. Can you imagine the backlog of one person trying to handle all of those reports? After the report came out, the Medical Board assigned two analysts to review them. Given the types of complaints that the Board receives, I am not sure 2 is enough.
The Medical Board of California assures that they will prosecute all legit complaints. They have a new executive director. Oversight of impaired physicians is essential for the comfort, confidence and safety of patients and the Medical Board needs to be diligent in investigating every single complaint. If the doctor is found guilty, swift revocation or suspension of the license is needed.