Sexual Violation of Patients by Physicians: A Mixed-Methods, Exploratory Analysis of 101 Cases

Sexual Violation of Patients by Physicians: A Mixed-Methods, Exploratory Analysis of 101 Cases

As noted in our introduction, it was often difficult or impossible to obtain data on cases of sexual abuse in medicine. States should make board documents open access. Several states do not allow public access to any documents or put up barriers to obtaining them (such as having to submit a written request for documents or pay a fee per page). It is concerning that the FSMB’s 2010 report, “Addressing Sexual Boundaries: Guidance to State Medical Boards,” nowhere mentions the possibility of reporting cases to police or other authorities. Boards should be mandatory reporters whenever patients—who are vulnerable by definition and expected to be compliant with physician orders—are sexually abused by physicians. At a minimum, boards should be held harmless if they report credible allegations of sexual abuse to authorities. At present, only 11 states have laws requiring medical boards to report sexual abuse to the police or prosecutors when the victim is an adult.
We do not expect impetus for such change to come from leading medical associations. The AMA not only lobbied strongly for the current secrecy of the NPDB, but it may also be moving in a counterproductive direction with its Code of Medical Ethics. In the 2015 version of the AMA Code, it stated clearly, “Sexual contact that occurs concurrent with the patient-physician relationship constitutes sexual misconduct”. The section of the code on “sexual misconduct” has now been renamed “Romantic or Sexual Relationships with Patients”; it remains open to the idea that such relationships “may exploit the vulnerability of patients…and ultimately be detrimental to the patient’s well-being”. Impetus for change in reporting rules is thus more likely to come from the public and state legislatures, largely due to investigations by the AJC, other media outlets, and researchers.

James M. DuBois, Heidi A. Walsh, John T. Chibnall, Emily E. Anderson, Michelle R. Eggers, Mobolaji Fowose, and Hannah Ziobrowski

Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment

June 19, 2017

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