State medical boards need to stop paying lip service to “public safety.” Patient rights to safe and ethical care should trump a wayward doctor’s right to earn a living.
The unspoken pact any patient holds with a medical practitioner is faith. And when that faith is shattered by physician misbehavior, the patient certainly has a right to expect that medical and legal authority – that is, law enforcement, hospital administrations and state medical boards – will toe the ethical line and mete out appropriate discipline. But the ugly reality is that in the United States, discipline for doctor misconduct is a rarified commodity. In hundreds of thousands of cases, year after year, appropriate response is simply non-existent, or often far too little too late.
Consider two of a thousand cases we could name::
On May 13 of this year, the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners finally pulled up their adult pants long enough to revoke the medical license of a 60-year-old criminal doctor named Leonard Joachim. This particular MD, who plied his trade in the city of Wayne, had already confessed on two different occasions to illegal sexual contact with patients. The second incident happened less than 8 weeks after he faced the state board to acknowledge that he would – from that point forward – be required to have a chaperone present when he examined women. In other words, health authorities believed that a predator physician undressing patients for money was fine, as long as the randy rampallian had a babysitter.
Not that they hadn’t heard it all before.
Over the course of Joachim’s medical career, the state board already knew of a least four other complaints of sexual misbehavior, and they had taken impotent action on three of the cases. He admitted guilt on two of them as far back as 1995.
So while last week’s New Jersey board decision was good news for the public, it is impossible not be appalled by the length of time this miscreant was allowed to continue his fun and games in the first place.
Meanwhile in the city of Teaneck, we have a dermatologist by the name of Doctor Gangaram Ragi, age 62, who used his clinic, the Advanced Laser & Skin Cancer Center, for his particular brand of reindeer games.
Ragi – like Joachim – was allowed by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to dodge criminal charges of numerous sexual assault cases. The D.A. instead slapped his wrist with what is known as a Pretrial Intervention Program. And when he molested yet another patient, they sent him back again. That’s like sending a bratty street urchin to study hall. The State Medical Board knew full well Ragi could not be trusted in the presence of female patients. Did they revoke his license? Of course not. They told him he could not treat women anymore.
We consider it mental midgetry to allow a criminal like Joachim to retain his medical license for 20 years after he confessed to sexual criminal misconduct and showed a pattern to continue.
It is equally preposterous that a state medical board might acknowledge that an MD has a female patient predator history, and then inanely allow him to practice medicine. Allowing any physician to sidestep criminal prosecution after being accused by numerous patients of sexual assault. is ludicrous.
All patients need to be able to trust doctors. Society has a right to rest assured that when doctor-patient trust has been broken, there are cogent, consistent, mechanisms in place to protect us. The fact that physicians are held to the lowest standards of discipline in society is contemptible.
Pity, but this is an American reality.
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S.A. Native commented:
“Too many times, doctors who abuse women throughout their careers are, if they are caught, simply allowed to fade away into retirement without any consequences for their actions.”
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