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Larry Nassar, George Tyndall, James Heaps, Bayard Allmond and countless other physicians have faced the legal and professional consequences of sexual misconduct against patients most of whom were young and vulnerable. A story in the Los Angeles Times reports that since the fall of 2017, complaints against California physicians have increased by 62%. Those numbers came from a Times analysis of California medical board data.

Experts have correlated this increase in reporting with the rise of the #MeToo movement, which encouraged women to report inappropriate (and illegal) sexual misconduct which they had overlooked and simply failed to report on in the past. The increase in reporting is occurring throughout the United States because women (the majority of those being victimized by men) seem to have been inspired by the courageous women who spoke up about the sexual harassment and sexual assault they endured by powerful men. The #MeToo movement reminded women that they have a voice too, and they have the power to affect change through their actions.

The LA Times piece reports how Larry Nassar, former USA Gymnastics doctor molested young athletes. Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. USC gynecologist George Tyndall was charged with sexual battery and exploitation of students at a University facility. And Bayard Allmond, a Berkeley pediatrician was stripped of his medical license for abusing a teenage boy.

Patients in California might feel more empowered now because of all the high-profile cases of doctors facing consequences for abusing and assaulting patients. The medical board of California has the authority to rescind a medical license if it decides the person has behaved inappropriately or violated the terms of their medical license. Complaints of sexual misconduct against doctors is the fastest growing type of allegation:

  • In the fiscal year that just ended in June 2019, the medical board of CA received 11,406 overall complaints, which is the highest number the board has ever received.
  • In 2018-2019, there were 279 complaints.
  • In 2017-2018, there were 280 complaints.
  • In 2016-2017, there were complaints.

Twenty-three California physicians have lost their medical licenses for sexual misconduct since 2017. In some cases, doctor can apply to have their license reinstated after three years.

According to an article in The Hill, Marian Hollingsworth, who is a frequent critic of the medical board of California, said that only 4% of complaints translate to sanctions against physicians. She also said that the disciplines have not been proportional to the number of complaints.

What is the medical board doing to protect patients from doctors’ sexual misconduct?

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), which calls itself the “voice for state medical boards,” has the authority to discipline physicians who commit sexual misconduct according to an article in MedPage Today. But sometimes when a doctor is disciplined by a state medical board, the violation might be vaguely listed in the doctor’s record as something like, “unprofessional conduct,” which could mean a host of different things. The FSMB reports that 13 state medical boards require state regulators to notify state or local law enforcement when a doctor commits a sexual offense against a patient, however, as the MedPage story,  not all state boards will assure confidentiality for those who report violations and 18 require that someone who complains must disclose their identity.

The FSMB has formed a “Working Group on Sexual Boundary Violations,” which will recommend best practices for cooperating with law enforcement and prosecuting or adjudicating these violations. The working group will also address the FDMB’s current policy on “addressing sexual boundaries,” which has not been updates since 2006 and does not include recommended procedures for handling complaints against doctors for sexual misconduct.

If you were sexually abused or assaulted by a doctor, someone with authority over you or by anyone your choice of attorney can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. You are welcome to call the Los Angeles sexual assault lawyers of Taylor & Ring to discuss your case and learn how we help survivors seek the justice they deserve. You may call 310.776.6390 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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