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.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:
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.
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:
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.
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
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.”However, the actions that the Board can take against these pervs is somewhat limited:
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.”
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.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.
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.”