It’s not easy to find the names of doctors who have been involved in sexual misconduct cases. There’s no national list. Medical boards post disciplinary documents on their websites, but the websites can be difficult to navigate – especially for consumers. Plus, the licensing boards don’t offer a way to pull up all the doctors disciplined for one problem or another. So, finding every case involving sexual misconduct requires reading through countless other cases where doctors are disciplined for all sort of infractions, from medical malpractice and improper prescribing to substance abuse or criminal conduct.
To do this story, the AJC took the time to review public disciplinary actions, as well as other documents, released by every medical board in the nation in 2016 and 2017. That was the only way the newspaper could find and study how medical boards handled the cases we wanted to study – the ones involving doctors accused of molesting patients, trading drugs for sex, committing sex crimes or enticing patients into sexual relationships.
Because some physicians accused of sexual crimes may not have been sanctioned by medical boards, we also reviewed news releases issued by U.S. attorneys in those two years involving federal criminal charges, and we drew on news reports of some state criminal cases.
We then classified cases on whether they involved victims who were patients or employees or criminal acts unrelated to a doctor’s practice. Most of the more than 450 cases identified involved doctors who had never previously been publicly cited for sexual misconduct. Other cases involved physicians who were facing new allegations after being previously sanctioned, and physicians whose cases were determined by medical boards or courts in the time frame.
The new cases were added to the AJC’s existing database of physicians accused of sexual misconduct from 1999 through 2015. Today’s report is a follow-up to the AJC’s ground-breaking 2016 series Doctors & Sex Abuse.
After identifying and studying the latest cases, the AJC determined which doctors were still allowed to practice and which were not. The AJC interviewed doctors named in the stories or contacted lawyers who represent them. AJC reporters interviewed or contacted victims, medical board officials, law enforcement officials, advocates and others to understand how those caught up in sexual misconduct cases viewed the system.
The AJC invests the time it takes to do this type of reporting as part of its mission to help protect the public and hold regulatory agencies accountable. The AJC is nationally recognized for its work on the topic of physician misconduct. Its 2016 series was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.