Alaska

State report card

The report card for each state contains the scores it received when we evaluated it for how well it protects patients against sexually abusive doctors. The overall rating is the average of the score the state received in each category. In states with two medical boards, one for osteopathic physicians and the other for medical doctors, the overall rating is based on an average of each board’s scores.

Click on the boxes below to read how Alaska did on each category — and how we calculated the score for the categories.

62

State rating (out of 100)

  • Board composition: 80
    Are consumer members included to balance physicians’ tendency to identify with their colleagues? More...
    A blueprint developed by The Federation of State Medical Boards recognized the importance of having independent public members on physician-dominated medical regulatory agencies. To assess the composition of disciplinary agencies, the AJC used three measures, with the most weight given to consumer representation. Top grades went to states where public members make up at least 40 percent of the board; where those members represent consumers and where neither they nor their family members have professional or financial ties to health care; and where women hold at least 40 percent of the board seats.
  • Criminal acts: 44
    Are medical regulators and law enforcement made aware of doctors’ criminal conduct? More...
    The medical profession has long recognized the power imbalance between doctors and patients. But only in recent years have states enacted three key laws to try to protect vulnerable patients from dangerous doctors. The AJC considered two of these laws the most important. Top grades went to states where physicians must undergo criminal background checks, with fingerprints, at initial license application and periodically; and where doctor-patient sexual contact has been made a criminal offense in recognition that patients cannot give meaningful consent. In addition, the AJC also rated states on whether medical boards that learn of allegations of criminal conduct must alert law enforcement.

More from Alaska

Highlighted case

Dr. Clifford Merchant

In 2008, in an anonymous post on a consumer watchdog website, a person indicating she was the mother of a child sexually abused by Merchant wrote that the doctor had been reported to the Office of Children's Services.

Six years later, Merchant was arrested and charged with 33 counts related to alleged sexual abuse of four girls, ages 5 to 12, and possession of child pornography. It was alleged that the abuse took place in Merchant's home, plane and cabin. He surrendered his medical license that year.

He was jailed in 2015 in lieu of $10 million bail after an FBI informant recorded him attempting to arrange the murder of one of his victims, the Alaska Dispatch News reported. In May 2016, Merchant entered a plea agreement and will be sentenced on charges of first-degree sexual abuse, child pornography possession and for violating his conditions of release, according to the Dispatch News. As part of the plea deal he admitted to planning to hire a hit man, but no other additional charges were brought. The newspaper noted that Merchant faces up to life in prison at sentencing, which is set for August.

Merchant contacted the Journal-Constitution but declined to comment.

Researching a doctor

  • Accurate records of sexual abuse accusations against doctors are not always easily accessible. In Alaska, the best chance of finding problems is to search the records offered by the Alaska State Medical Board. You can search a list of board orders against Alaska doctors here. Alaska does not post medical board orders online, only a list of sanctioned doctors with information on the grounds for board action. Contact information for the medical board can be found here.

Complaint process

The division does not investigate anonymous complaints, per its policy and procedure. A senior investigator said that's because the doctor has a right to face his accuser.

Where to file a complaint

Quoted

“You know what I want, I know what you want, and I can’t be giving you these pills for nothing.”

— Dr. Stephen W. Grandstaff, as quoted by the Court of Appeals in 2007. The court rejected his appeal of a conviction for exchanging drugs for sex with several patients. A news report says he was sentenced to 20 years in prison after a jury convicted him of 73 counts.

Key fact

By state law, if civil or criminal charges are dropped when a physician voluntarily surrenders his or her license, the license cannot be reinstated.

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