Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Medical Board debates criminal penalties for sexually abusive physicians

The Executive Director of the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure wants to make physicians who might be tempted to sexually assault a patient think twice before they do it.  Dr. John Hall proposed passing legislation that will close loopholes and toughen the criminal statutes for sexually abusive doctors.  The next session of the Mississippi Legislature begins next month. Earlier post. However, some doctors on the Board do not exactly see eye to eye with Dr. Hall.  The Mississippi Business Journal reported this week:

The Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure voted unanimously Monday to address whether it wants to pursue legislation that would enable it to seek criminal charges for sexual abuse by physicians.

The teleconference session was called by board President Dr. Charles Miles on a request by Executive Director Dr. John Hall.

A committee hearing will be held Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. at 1867 Crane Ridge Dr., Suite 200-B, Jackson to discuss the matter further.

Hall had said in an exclusive interview with the Mississippi Business Journal last month that he was pursuing legislation with lawmakers, including authority to seek criminal charges.

“I’m hoping to add this to the criminal code rather than the medical practice act,” Hall said in an interview with the Journal on Nov. 28.

 “As a felony penalty [it] would include permanent ineligibility for [Mississippi] medical licensure (something [the licensure board] could not do by current medical practice act or regulations), as well as possibly jail/prison time and perhaps some form of restitution.”  Rest of article.
In other words, Dr. Hall wants to make it a crime for physicians to sexually abuse their patients in Mississippi.  The Atlanta Constitution-Journal published a report that ranked Mississippi last among the states in protecting patients from abuse.  The Board appointed Dr. Hall earlier this year as Executive Director after long-time director Dr. Vann Craig retired.   The Board can discipline doctors who sexually abuse their patients but can't imprison or criminally prosecute them.  However, our favorite medical dinosaur, Dr. Randy Easterling, is attempting to yet again put a stop sign in front of something that is progressive.  MBJ reported:

Dr. S. Randall Easterling said the board was in a “hurry-up position” to consider possible legislation for a complex issue. The Legislature convenes Jan. 3.

So he made a motion to take up the matter on Wednesday before the Rules and Regulations Committee. He was seconded by Dr. William D. McClendon.

Major Gen. Erik Hearon (Ret.) asked for a time limit to get the matter ready for possible legislation.
Miles said he was reluctant to put a time limit on it, given the complexity of the issue.

“If we’re going to pull ourselves off the bottom of the evaluation . . . before the deadline [for filing bills] in a little over a month, it’ll be a year and a month before we can do that,” Hearon said as a non-voting member of the Consumer Committee.

Another board member said, “I don’t think the Atlanta Journal-Constitution” series “should be taken as gospel.”
Hall, who also has a law degree, said in the earlier article in the Journal that “consent” by a patient is “impossible,” because of what he calls an “insurmountable power barrier.”

Allowing such abuse to continue is “as soul-crushing as the Boston Diocese,” Hall said of the scandal in which the Catholic hierarchy protected priests who had sexually abused children.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that “only 11 states have a law requiring medical authorities to report to police or a prosecutor when they suspect a sexual crime has been committed against an adult.” Mississippi is not one of those.

The Clarion-Ledger reported some more remarks from Dr. Easterling:

In a Monday meeting, board member Dr. Randy Easterling called the article “greatly flawed,” saying the American Medical Association “already has a code of ethics that would prohibit this. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution article shouldn’t be taken as gospel.”

He called the issue “very complicated, and I feel like we’ve been put in a hurry-up position.”

The article mentioned a Georgia physician who went to prison for selling prescriptions for sex — only to get his license back.

Easterling said state and federal laws already address this problem.

Another board member said if a crime does take place, the board is unable to do anything beyond recommending prosecution to the local district attorney.

Easterling suggested the board refer the discussion to the Rules and Regulations Committee for study and that the committee could refer back to the board any recommendations. The rest of the board agreed..... Article
Other physicians agreed with Dr. Easterling.  Keep in mind, the subject at issue is determining whether criminal laws should be strengthened to included penalties for doctors who commit sexual assault or abuse against their patients.

The board did receive some good marks in a recent University of Michigan study, which concluded Mississippi has taken more major disciplinary actions against physicians per capita than most other states.

Dr. Luke Lampton, chairman of the state Board of Health, said the reason Mississippi doesn't rank high in taking medical licenses away is because of a successful and nationally recognized physician health program, “which works to salvage physicians through rigorous oversight, counseling and monitoring. And this health program is extraordinarily effective and not only protects the patients of the state but keeps physicians in practice as long as they follow the intense program. In the state with the lowest physicians per capita this is not only enlightened policy but exemplary public health policy.”

He doesn't believe there is an epidemic of physician behavior abuse in Mississippi anymore than any other professions, such as pastors, counselors and lawyers. (KF: No one said there was.)

“I certainly strongly condemn any misconduct, but humans are frail animals, and each case is tragic enough without sending someone to jail when taking their medical license and their ability to make a living away will accomplish punishment enough,” he said. (KF: Does he moonlight for the Mississippi Bar?)

Lawsuits and civil penalties will certainly follow, he said. “So take away their license and utilize the current laws on the books, but new laws are foolishness.”
However, the actions that the Board can take against these pervs is somewhat limited:

Under Mississippi law, the disciplinary board can only revoke a medical license for a year, Hall said. After that, the physician can appeal to Chancery Court to have the license reinstated.

That can lead to a perpetual fight in court, he said.

Only 11 states require medical professionals to report to authorities when they suspect a sexual crime has been committed. Mississippi isn’t one of those states.

Hearon believes Mississippi should be. “Let law enforcement sort that out,” he said.

Mississippi has a sexual assault law that includes victims who are sedated, but the law does little to spell out crimes short of penetration. What if a physician gropes a patient?

If district attorneys do pursue such cases, they may use the law forbidding simple assault, which under Mississippi law is a misdemeanor.

Hall said the relationship between a doctor and patient is, by its nature, one of the most intimate.

For instance, he said, a patient may have to wear a flimsy gown or remove clothing, and the physician may have to ask personal questions.

He said steps need to be taken to ensure that patients are protected. “We don’t want to stay 51st.”
Kingfish note: It appears Dr. Hall is trying to do the right thing.  He seeks to get some legislation written that will close some loopholes and put more teeth into the criminal laws.  However, Dr. Dinosaur is taking his usual position of trying to protect Mississippi physicians from any outside scrutiny or accountability.


Anonymous said...

KF, I am unclear. If a Doc violates a patient against their will right now, can the patient not press charges for assault? Is this trying to create an additional carve-out for people in a "control" position (i.e. teachers, preachers, etc...)?

Anonymous said...

Don't disparage him. He's always tried to take the right position when it involves sex with patients.

Anonymous said...

3:41 - yes, if a patient was sexually abused by a doctor, he could be charged as any other citizen. My thinking is that this specific felony would, as part of the sentence, permanently revoke the medical license. Further, my understanding is that many of these crimes occur after the doctor has sedated the patient, making evidence gathering a bit more difficult.

Anonymous said...

5:00! On fire!

Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine what there is to debate.
Non-consensual sex is rape. A patient who is sedated or weakened by illness is helpless in such situations.
Any doctor who does this is a sexual predator and just as a pedophile can't have access to children, these guys can't have access to patients.
Any human who thinks this behavior should be considered opportunistic rather than predatory is not only deliberately sexually ignorant but also has the morals and ethics of a slug.

Anonymous said...

Leave the doctors alone!!!! They work harder than anyone else and if a little side feel gets them through the day, then so be it!

Anonymous said...

I'm 3:41. I think that predators hsould be imprisoneed and prohibited from being in the same situation again - be it teachers, doctors, clergy, bosses, you name it. My questions about this are: Is this an attempt to make it state law (as opposed to Board Regs) that a Doc convicted of assault of a patient can't practice again? Second, is this an attempt to prevent Docs from having sex with a person who is their patient - period?

It may seem to be splitting hairs, but it seems to be an important distinction.

Anonymous said...

I stand with Dr. Hall!

Who The Hell Is Left? said...

Bosses? Bullshit. A woman can own the damned factory if she wins a sexual harassment lawsuit and that includes sexual intercourse. How about football players? Restaurant owners? Used Car Salesmen? Contractors? Milk-men? County Supervisors masquerading as policemen? Judges? Gardeners? Women who employ gardeners? School-day picture takers?

Anonymous said...

Why should doctors get a "get out of jail free" card for sexually assaulting anyone? Are they above the law? I would hope not. But if they are convicted of sexual assault then they should lose their license. What happened to their duty to do no harm?

Anonymous said...

Everyone agrees that predators should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. (E.g., someone that would have sex with someone who is sedated.) This is assault, pure and simple, and should not have to involve a medical board, or the Bar, or the local diocese...only the district attorney. But as 3:41/9:03 questions, will this be interpreted as preventing doctors from ever being involved with someone they have seen as a patient? Even if many years prior? This is the usual scenario, and the crux of Easterling's concern.

Or, as in the case of the doctor in the article: the doctor is having a consensual extramarital affair, and then writes the girlfriend a prescription. Or many prescriptions. When the affair is discovered and the GF reunites with her husband, THEY file a complaint with the medical board. ("Oh, honey, please forgive me. The evil doctor wrote me prescriptions...the affair is not my fault') This is not a doctor sleeping with a patient, this is an adulterer writing his girlfriend prescriptions for recreational use. This is not sexual assault. There is no need new legislation: the Medical Board has the remedy for this already in hand. And they are not shy about using it.

Anonymous said...

@10:58- what about the fact that Mississippi was rated the worst for physicians touching patients-- similar to every other health outcome.

Anonymous said...

3:33 - can you provide a link to that specific finding? I thought not.

Anonymous said...

Y'all just need to listen to ol' Randy. He is wise and only has the best interest of the.............DOCTORS in mind. And we all know the financial struggle our doctors face. Some of them have been forced to consider selling one of their vacation homes.

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