A scathing report by The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reveals that over the past 15 years, more than 3,100 American doctors have been disciplined for sexual misbehavior. More than two-thirds – 2,400 – actually sexually assaulted their patients.
Of course those numbers are shocking enough. But a reality just as ugly is the fact that at least half of those found guilty are allowed to keep right on undressing people for money.
Of course the end result is that in the United States, countless thousands of citizens continue to be in terrible peril, because paltry physician discipline plays a key role in a broken system – a system that considers doctors and their reputations worth far, far more than patient safety.
“We are just so reliant on them. We are helpless and vulnerable and literally in pain often times when we go in there. We just have to trust them. So when they cross the boundary, we are in shock, we are paralyzed, we’re confused, we’re scared. We just do not want to believe that a doctor is capable of this.” (David Clohessy, Executive Director of SNAP, an advocacy group for assaulted patients)
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution investigative reporters examined at least 100,000 doctor discipline records from all 50 states. The appalling cases ran the gamut from MDs molesting unconscious patients; physicians sexually touching themselves in treatment rooms; trading drugs for sex; public indecency; child pornography, and hundreds of cases of rape. In each case, the physicians either confessed to state medical boards, or authorities believed patients’ accusations after investigations.
More on this shrugged-off, societal embarrassment
- A broken system forgives doctors in every state
- In Georgia, doctor sanctioned 3 times for acts involving vulnerable patients is still licensed
- Doctor’s reputation is not indicator of their likelihood to offend
- Why a national tracking system doesn’t show the extent of physician sexual misconduct
For more than 100 years American medicine’s “lab coat secrecy” has given authorities the perfect excuse to look the other way when patients accuse doctors of such crimes.
According to Larry Dixon, Executive Director of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, a major part of the problem is a simple matter of money: states want a return on their medical education investment.
“The resources that have been poured into that education almost demand that you try to salvage that physician.”
The investigators see parallels between the U.S. doctor sexual abuse scandals, and the Catholic priest scandal. While the majority of physicians are not sexual predators, these assaults are far, far more common than people realize.
Here’s but one jaw-dropping case: