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Doctors Not Always Punished for Sexual Misconduct

Half of all doctors in the investigation that were accused of sexual misconduct with patients have active medical licenses.

A recent investigation found that many doctors who have been accused of sexual misconduct continue to use active medical licenses.

The investigation cited a fragmented medical oversight system and cases too often handled in secrecy as possible reasons the doctors went largely unpunished, reports CBS News.

For the investigation, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution analyzed 100,000 disciplinary orders issued against different types of doctors since 1999. Of those orders, 3,100 had been accused of sexual misconduct, and 2,400 of those accusations involved patients.

Half of the 2,400 doctors accused of sexual misconduct with patients, including psychiatrists, family practitioners, anesthesiologists and others, still have active medical licenses.

Several explanations were offered for so many offenders continuing to work with patients. The medical boards responsible for discipline are made up of an offender’s peers, meaning they may be more sympathetic and lenient. Prosecutors may also reduce or dismiss charges to keep doctors off sex-offender registries. Other times hospitals may simply fail to report patient complaints.

Surprisingly, only 11 states currently have laws requiring medical authorities to report sexual misconduct allegations to law enforcement.

Still, some regulators say it would be wrong to automatically disbar doctors because of sexual misconduct.

“Let me say that it takes a lot of money to educate a physician,” Vann Craig, the former executive director of the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure, says. “If they can be safely monitored and rehabilitated, I don’t see why they can’t come back from drugs, alcohol or sexual misconduct.”

Some have called for clearer recording requirements for medical boards to track instances of sexual misconduct.

“There just isn’t accurate data,” Atlanta Physician Dr. Gene Abel says.

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