Monday, January 7, 2008

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.


15 comments:

Kim said...

When I was 17, I went to a local hospital ER for a corneal abrasion. Imagine my surprise when the 34-year-old physician called me a day later to ask for a date!

I told him I had a boyfriend already, and honestly it never occurred to me or my parents to report it as his behavior towards me was fine in the department.

Imagine my shock when a few years later he was "let go" from his position for inappropriate behavior with patients. I read it in the newspaper!

Anonymous said...

When I was 22 (and married) my also married GYN had an abnormal focus on my sex life and was obsessed with touching and commenting on my "flat stomach". It wasn't exactly sexual misconduct but certainly crossed the line. I don't think men understand how vulnerable young sexy girls really are and how ill equipped they are to handle men who are in powerful positions. I hope young women today have more confidence and know better how to handle advances like this.

Rich said...

Doctors and medical staff get hit on as well. It's happened to me and some of my colleagues. This brings up the whole issue of how medical staff is sometimes abused by patients. Maybe you could do a post on that. :))

Toni Brayer MD said...

Rich: Being "hit" on by a patient might be inappropriate for the situation but doesn't fall under sexual abuse in my mind because usually the "power" lies with the health provider. Anytime there is an unequal power structure or a more vulnerable person, that is when flirting crosses the line.
When patients flirt with me I laugh, feel flattered and then get right back to focusing on their medical issues. I'm in charge here. Hey, you can always just pull the IV. (joke)

Rich said...

A patient (male) tried to kiss one of the female attendings I work with. The abuse I meant was verbal non sexual where I've seen docs and staff threatened when just trying to do what they feel is right for the patient.

I've been hit on and have had patients call me the next day and ask me if they could come by for a more casual visit /meet for coffee etc. I don't mind that but would never act on it.

female patient said...

Rich, Your comparison is not valid. A big difference is that the patient is usually unclothed and vulnerable when an impropriety takes place. Medical workers aren't naked in front of the patients. Also, medical workers can call back-up if they feel threatened. What defense does a female patient all alone in the exam room have against the doctor?

whitecap nurse said...

I worked with a doctor who had numerous complaints from the nursing staff about inappropriate/threatening words and actions. He would pick on certain nurses in particular, especially on the night shift. The medical director backed him up. Sadly, he wasn't fired until he raped a patient.

Anonymous said...

So, I have to ask. If a nurse or doc is harassing other nurses or docs why would those who know about this let that nurse or doc alone with a patient?

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to rationalize my experience. I shouldn't, but I have to make sure that I have valid reason here. My dr. places his hand on my leg alot. He rubbed my face and told me that I was beautiful. I have very low self-esteem and he knows about some abuse in my past. Instead of listening to my chest through my shirt, he lifted it up. When I was on the exam table, he stood very close to me and asked about my drive and how often I am intimate w my husband. I have thyroid disorder. I have gotten increasingly uncomfortable with these kind of questions. I was also told that if he had enough time, he could fix me and he wouldn't need medical books to do it. I've worried about this for 4 wks since that appt. This dr. is very well known and has done several good things for my well being. I feel very bad going against him like this, but it's tearing me up. I don't think I can face him again for another appt. Maybe he thought what he said was completely innocent. I told him of my abuse in order to maybe deter him from making these comments but it has not worked. Help!

Lou said...

My longtime OB/GYN gave my a bizarre sex lecture which I later realized was NLP or conversational hypnosis at my 6 week followup visit after having my baby. He somehow conveyed but not outright that our relationship was now sexual. Like a nucklehead I went back to him for an IUD issue....and somehow left that appointment knowing exaxctly were my g-spot is... Still in shock and feeling guilty for not reporting this person.

kamagra said...

I think that the sexual misconduct is something so important, For example, a teacher may be fired and a doctor may have his or her medical license revoked because of sexual misconduct. In addition, the person in the subordinate position may allege sexual harassment.!! thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Any Dr. who engages in sexual relations with a patient should have his/her license revoked. Only a very sick or stupid Doctor would cross such a line with a patient. The patient trusts their doctor and the community must be able to trust the medical profession. The California Medical Board must protect the people from these predators who take advantage of the community. There should be no exceptions. We need to trust our Doctors, Hospitals, and broader medical community.

Anonymous said...

I am sure what is going on with my physician at this point... is very unethical and I don't know what to do.

Anonymous said...

I know all to well about this. Right now I am going through so much depression and anxiety from this doctor. I am lucky to have the best attorney though. I really think that at anytime there is a female patient ans a male doctor there should be a female nurse in the room at all times.

Anonymous said...

Doctors are in postition of power and it's not negotiable about that fact. When a physician abuses a patient they are doing harm to the patient. Isn't that an oath "do no harm"? Doctors that think patients are fair game and dateable may be in for a rude awakening! The Medical Board of California can and will revoke a liscense. The doctors reputation is ruined. The patient is harmed. No one wins!