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Are medical boards responding properly to sexual misconduct?

State medical boards, with their authority over medical licenses and their disciplinary processes, could play an important role in keeping doctors who have sexually abused patients from being in a position where they could cause more harm. But are such boards currently doing enough in this regard?

A recent analysis raises concerns on this front. The analysis, by Kaiser Health News, looked at what sanctions the Medical Board of California has issued over the past 10 years when it comes to cases of alleged sexual abuse by doctors.

Among the things that this analysis found were that:

  • It was rare for the board to make formal allegations of sexual misconduct
  • When the medical board issued sanctions in connection to such allegations, probation was the most common sanction (this involves putting conditions on a doctor’s license rather than revoking it)
  • It was pretty common for the length of probation issued in these cases to be below the board’s guideline-recommended minimum level of seven years (this happened in over half of the probation cases)

So, it appears that it was not uncommon for the board to be relatively lenient in sexual misconduct cases, often allowing doctors to keep their license and often having conditions that were placed on licenses only last a few years.

Now, California is considered to be one of the stricter states when it comes to doctor oversight. So, if medical board leniency in sexual abuse cases is common there, one wonders how common it is in Michigan and other states.

This raises questions as to whether, when it comes to responding to doctor sexual misconduct, medical boards are putting too much of a focus on giving doctors second chances and not enough focus on protecting patients.

Do you think state medical boards are doing enough to help protect patients from sexual abuse by doctors? If not, what changes would you like to see such boards make in how they act in cases involving abuse allegations?

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