A Conspiracy of Silence—Physician Sexual Misconduct
Public Citizen, a Washington D.C.-based consumer advocacy rights group, released a study earlier this year that focused on sexual misconduct by physicians. The data used in the study was taken from reports to the National Practitioner Databank for the period 2003-2013. The databank is a federally mandated database that receives disciplinary reports about medical doctors related to different types of malpractice.
The non-profit advocacy group found that during the 10-year period it studied, 1,039 reports were related to sexual misconduct. The reports came from hospitals, malpractice insurance carriers, medical boards and other healthcare organizations. Of the more than 1,000 reports, 253 of them were hospital reports of doctors disciplined for sexual misconduct. Cases that are reported to the databank are also reported to state medical boards. The study found that of the 253 hospital cases reported to the databank, 70 percent of those doctors did not receive any further discipline from their medical boards.
Like conspiracies of silence related to sexual assault concerning priests and college athletes, there is a conspiracy of silence today related to physician sexual misconduct with patients. And like the past reluctance to punish sexual abusers, so it is with doctors today. But what has caused the silence and inaction in the first place?
A variety of things contribute. A majority of patients are afraid to bring abuses to light because they may be ashamed or intimidated by the doctors’ perceived status or they simply don’t know the process for reporting. Nurses and other medical personnel may be too intimidated by doctors or afraid of losing their jobs to report abuses. The system lacks a cohesive method for complete reporting to all of the agencies and medical boards that should be notified. As an example, a doctor disciplined and released from one hospital may end up finding work at another hospital because the local medical board for the new hospital is unaware of the previous disciplinary action. Sometimes boards and other medical organizations are aware, but would rather protect their own by keeping abuses in the dark. There are a variety of very complicated reasons why doctors who have been found to be abusers continue to practice, or why they are not found out at all.
Patients who are abused must come forward to bring the abuse to light.
If you believe you have been abused, it is important to first discuss it with someone you know and trust. This can help you gain the courage to come forward. It is also important to report the abuse as soon as possible. The statute of limitations on many of these cases is just one year.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Hodes Milman & Liebeck are can help you understand your options. Our medical malpractice attorneys provide sensitive and confidential complimentary case evaluations. Contact us today online at hmlm.com or call (949) 640-8222 for more information.