The newspaper’s analysis of up to 16 years of public records shows sexual improprieties and misconduct involving doctors of all types: psychiatrists seducing the emotionally fragile; urologists subjecting women to lewd remarks during intimate exams; family practitioners fondling minors; pain specialists exchanging prescriptions for intercourse; anesthesiologists molesting sedated patients; obstetricians raping patients who came to them for care.
The Journal-Constitution analyzed more than 100,000 public disciplinary records nationwide and found more than 2,400 doctors who were sanctioned after being accused of sexual misconduct involving patients. Of those, half still have active medical licenses today, the newspaper found.
“These cases appear to represent a fraction of incidents of sexual abuse,” said Editor Kevin Riley. “Many cases remain obscured because state boards and hospitals handle many sexual misconduct cases in secret, and some public orders are so vaguely worded that patients would not know that a sexual offense occurred. What’s more, the profession and its national lobby - the American Medical Association - have exercised clout to ensure the issue stays out of the public eye.”
Kept from information about problem doctors, patients may think they are safe because their doctor is prominent and respected. In fact, the problem includes some of the famous, most honored and most popular doctors in America, including pro sports team doctors, the former president of a Harvard-affiliated psychiatric hospital, a hospital CEO, a multimillion-selling author who appeared on Oprah, and beloved family physicians.
Highlights of the exclusive AJC investigation:
• Code of silence: A culture of power, esteem and secrecy gives doctors license to abuse patients sexually, even at a time when the public has realized other respected institutions, such as the military and the clergy, must be held accountable.
• Lack of legal oversight. Only 11 states have a law requiring medical regulators to report to police when they suspect a sexual crime has been committed against an adult.
• The vast majority of physicians are not abusive and may be unaware of the extent of the problem. Yet, some doctors and nurses join in the code of silence, failing to report a colleague’s abuse. Some are advised not to file a report unless they have taken steps to verify the allegation, or they might be threatened with repercussions if they speak out.
• Victims of sexual abuse by doctors are often society’s most vulnerable. They range from infants to the elderly, and include drug addicts lured into sex to continue a prescription; survivors of childhood sex abuse now preyed upon by their psychiatrists; and patients who feel powerless because of mental illness, immigration status, poverty, or any number of other compromising factors. Doctors are well aware of these vulnerabilities and can use them to attack the credibility of patients who report abuse.
• Some patients may not realize they have been victimized. Scores of cases around the country involve patients violated when they were under anesthesia or sedated. Others were secretly photographed during intimate exams. And some are molested under the guise of medical exams by doctors who know patients are unsure of what is proper.
To read the AJC’s investigation go to www.AJC.com/doctors.
About The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the leading source - both in print and online - of news, information and advertising for metropolitan Atlanta, reaching a total print and online audience of 1.7 million people each week. Every month, nearly 6.4 million unique visitors access the newspaper's websites, including AJC.com, myAJC.com and accessAtlanta.com. Our newsroom is the largest in Georgia with more than 150 journalists. We report on a metro area that has more than 5 million people and cover five core counties and more than 20 city governments. Plus, the AJC has a dedicated investigations team of 11 reporters and editors - a combined 285 years of experience - demanding integrity and effectiveness from local governments and businesses. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is part of Cox Media Group, a publishing, digital media and broadcasting subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises.
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