National investigation accuses 2,400 physicians of sexual abuse to patients

A sweeping investigative report found physician sexual misconduct is widespread in every state across the country.

Reporters from The Atlanta Journal Constitution have identified more than 3,100 physicians who were publicly disciplined for sexual misconduct since 1999, and more than 2,400 of those violations involved patients.

The investigation grew out of a smaller project when AJC reporter Danny Robbins was working on a series of prison medical care stories. While digging into orders by the Georgia Composite Medical Board, he found about 70 cases of physician sexual misconduct — about two-thirds of which had no effect on the physician's ability to practice medicine. The AJC began researching to see if this was a problem specific to Georgia and determined that the issue is incredibly widespread. Their findings "suggested that doctors were treated differently from other sexual offenders," according to the AJC.

The project involved analyzing more than 100,000 disciplinary records. However, according to the AJC investigation, many cases are dealt with secretly by state boards and hospitals, meaning the numbers could be much larger.

The reason the issue is so widespread and largely unknown is because hospitals, clinics and other physicians often fail to report cases, medical boards often issue confidential agreements, physicians can avoid sanctions by entering "impaired physician" programs and some medical authorities rely on physicians to self-report sexual misconduct, among other issues with public orders and medical board limitations.

"While the vast majority of the nation's 900,000 doctors do not sexually abuse patients, the AJC found the phenomenon is akin to the priest scandal: It doesn't necessarily happen every day, but it happens far more often than anyone has acknowledged," the report reads.

Read the full report here.


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