Almost every portrayal of doctors depicts them to be unequivocally good, and many people believe this portrayal. However, this belief has been under scrutiny recently. In light of the recent case against Dr. Larry Nasser, physicians and patients have started to focus their attention on doctors who sexually abuse patients and investigate the outcomes of these crimes, and the results are nothing short of disheartening.
Danny Robbins, an investigative reporter for Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has spent a lot of time examining the official response to this problem of doctor’s who sexually abuse their patients. He found that more than 2,400 doctors have been sanctioned by medical boards for sexual abuse of their patients, but more than half of these doctor’s still had their medical licenses. Among the doctors who did have their license taken away, Robbins discovered that many were able to easily get them back and continue practicing. The reasoning behind this is similar to a reasoning found in the criminal justice system: people working in these fields do not want to report each others misbehaviors. Robbins explains that oftentimes medical boards will shield these crimes from the public by not reporting them to the criminal justice system unless the victim reports it. But, even in the event of a victim reporting the abuse, the attorney general is left to negotiate with the doctor’s lawyer, and the medical boards follow the negotiation agreed upon by the doctor and the attorney general. Despite the number of doctors that are reported for sexually abusing their patients, few of them face punishments, and among those that do, the punishments are not severe and leave the abuse unknown to the public.
With little being done to deter doctor’s from misbehaviors, what can patients do to protect themselves? Dr. Altaf Saadi, neurologist and former sexual assault crisis line worker, explains that patients are always given the option to have a nurse present in the exam room. Along with this, Robbins also states that patients can go online and see if their doctor has been sanctioned at all. However, these records are often left vague, and one might have to do a little more research in order to determine what the violation was. However, Dr. Saadi believes that physicians also have a role in changing this. She explains that physicians should work to counter the environment that allows for these crimes to go unheard. Furthermore, it is important to address the medical boards that allow these doctors to get away with sexually abusive behaviors. Robbins states that the medical boards need to consist of a more diverse group of members who are not all doctors because many boards have few consumer members, if any at all. In order to see a change in the ways that these cases are handled, both physicians and patients have important roles in changing the ways in which medical boards and the criminal justice system pursue these offenses in the future.
- Dr. Altaf Saadi, neurologist and former sexual assault crisis line worker
- Danny Robbins, investigative reporter for Atlanta Journal-Constitution