Sexually Abusive Doctors in Oregon: How Well Are Patients Protected?
The state of California recently became the first in the nation to enact a law requiring doctors on probation for causing harm to patients to disclose that fact to patients before an appointment. Doctors on probation for causing harm by sexual misconduct with a patient, overprescribing medication, a criminal conviction, or drug or alcohol use, are required to disclose. The announcement of this new law might make you wonder: what patient protections exist against sexually abusive doctors in Oregon?
In a report by a major newspaper examining all 50 states with respect to how well they address sexual abuse by doctors, Oregon, with a score of 62, ranked 21—near the middle of the pack. States were scored in five areas:
- Duty-to-report laws
- Board composition
- Criminal acts
- Discipline laws
Let's take a look at each of these in turn, and how Oregon scored in its efforts to protect patients against sexually abusive doctors.
Oregon got a grade of 56 on this metric. Consent agreements and orders calling for collective action are removed from the state website once the action required in them is completed. Complaints against doctors are not posted on the state medical board website; the public must contact the disciplinary board to receive them. The website itself was noted to be one of the best in the nation.
Oregon scored somewhat better on this measure, with a score of 80. The state received full marks in a few areas. When a health care facility terminates or restricts a doctor's privilege, or the doctor voluntarily withdraws under an investigation, the facility is required to report that to the medical board within ten days after the disciplinary action. If they do not report in a timely fashion, they can be fined up to $10,000 plus costs of enforcement.
Physicians are also required to report peers for misconduct. The report must be made within ten days of discovering any information that another physician has engaged in dishonorable or unprofessional conduct, or is incompetent.
Oregon also scores well on the composition of the state medical board, with a grade of 80. Considerations for this factor were whether members of the public, not affiliated with the medical profession, were represented on the board, as well as the number of women on the board. As of the time of the report, the thirteen-member board had two public members, neither of whom was a physician or physician assistant nor the spouse, partner, parent, sibling or child of a physician or physician assistant. Seven out of the thirteen board members were women.
Unfortunately, Oregon did not fare as well on this measure, with a grade of 56. This factor examined whether physicians in a state are required to submit to criminal background checks, including fingerprinting, when first licensed and periodically afterward. Also considered was if the state has made sexual contact between a doctor and patient a criminal offense, in light of the fact that a patient cannot meaningfully consent to that contact.
Oregon has not made specifically made sexual contact between a doctor and patient a criminal act, but doctors are required to undergo background checks and fingerprinting when they apply and during some investigations by the medical board. The medical board is also required to notify law enforcement of any allegations of criminal conduct.
Oregon scored worst of all on this factor, with a grade of 40 on the strength of its physician discipline laws. Notably, Oregon state law does not require revocation of a physician's license for any type of sexual misconduct or conviction. If a doctor does have a license revoked for any reason, he or she may reapply in two years.
Further, medical regulators do not have the right to access hospital peer review records that might shed light on a physician's alleged misconduct. Also, state law does not require that the board deny a license to an applicant who has committed certain violations; the grant or denial of a license in such a case is left to the discretion of the board.
What Recourse Does a Patient Have Against a Sexually Abusive Doctor?
While Oregon appears to be about average in comparison to other states in terms of protecting patients against sexually abusive doctors, that may not mean much if you have been a victim of sexual misconduct by a physician.
Depending on the nature of the misconduct, you may be able to make a criminal complaint against the doctor. Another action you can take is to file a civil lawsuit, as sexual contact between a doctor and patient may constitute medical malpractice. Filing a lawsuit can get you some compensation that will allow you to get the treatment you need to recover from the abuse. Equally importantly, taking action may help empower you and give you a sense of closure, even if the criminal justice system or medical board does not take action against the doctor.
If you have questions about sexual abuse by doctors in Oregon, and what recourse you may have, we invite you to contact our law office to schedule a consultation.
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The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.