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 Florida did on each category — and how we calculated the score for the categories.


State rating (out of 100)

  • Board composition: 65
    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: 76
    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.
    • Has the state criminalized sexual misconduct involving doctors and patients?: 24 of 40
      State law says psychotherapists shall not engage in or request sexual contact until 2 years after termination of psychotherapy, but the two-year limit is not the sole determination of a criminal offense. Consent is not a factor. Violations are third-degree felonies (punishable by up to 5 years in prison), but on second offense are second-degree felonies (punishment up to 15 years).
  • Discipline laws: 45
    Do state laws strengthen oversight and discipline of problem physicians? More...
    Abusive physicians can be protected by laws that limit regulators’ ability to investigate cases and don’t require permanent revocation of doctor licenses for egregious offenses. To assess the legal environment for doctor discipline, the AJC examined four key laws. Top grades went to states that require permanent revocation of doctor licenses for some violations; where physicians who have been convicted of felonies or who have lost their licenses in other states cannot be licensed; where medical regulators are entitled to records and other proceedings of hospital peer review committees that examine doctor misconduct; and where there is a reasonable standard of proof required for disciplinary action against physicians, especially in sexual misconduct cases where there may be no independent witnesses.

More from Florida

Highlighted case

Dr. Regan Burke

The Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine allowed Burke, who has accused of having fondled a dozen women, to keep his license. Among the several cases the board described was an incident involving a patient who was visiting Burke in 2005 because of injuries she sustained in an automobile accident:

Burke “put his arm around Patient J.H.’s waist, pulled her toward his body and began to rub Patient J.H.’s breasts," the board said. "[He] then attempted to pull down Patient J.H.’s shorts, but he was initially unsuccessful because her shorts were tied. [He] successfully pulled Patient J.H.’s shorts down below her buttocks and began rubbing her buttocks … [He] then asked Patient J.H., ‘Who’s your daddy?’ and patient J.H. was scared and in shock.”

After Burke pleaded no contest to two counts of misdemeanor battery in 2008, a judge ordered him not to practice medicine for two years, according to the Orlando Sentinel. He has since been denied renewal of his license, most recently in March 2014.

A family member told the Journal-Constitution that Burke was falsely accused and that his established patients repeatedly ask her when he is returning to practice.

Researching a doctor

  • Accurate records of sexual abuse accusations against doctors are not always easily accessible. In Florida, the Florida Board of Medicine and the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine regulate medical professionals. Actions issued by both boards can be found on the same website. Please note that license search results typically include all public disciplinary actions, not just those involving sexual misconduct, and can sometimes include vague language. Also, some states deal with some disciplinary issues privately; private board orders are not included.

Complaint process

State law provides that the Department of Health can investigate anonymous complaints in some circumstances. The complaints must be in writing and legally sufficient, and the department must have reason to believe, after a preliminary inquiry, that the violations alleged are true. The department also has authority to conduct undercover investigations.

Where to file a complaint


“When [the patient] fully regained consciousness, she noticed that her skirt had been removed, her underpants were pulled down slightly on the left side, her bra was disheveled, and the top button of her jacket had been undone.”

— Findings of fact from the Board of Medicine's revocation of the license of a doctor who claimed that sex with a patient in his office was consensual.

Key fact

“Probable cause must be established during the investigation stage in order for the case to be heard in front of the appropriate board,” said Brad Dalton, deputy press secretary for the Florida Board of Medicine. Also, the state posts only final orders on its website, not earlier disciplinary actions. In some cases, years elapse between the time board complaints are filed and action is taken. There are even longer delays after doctors are arrested.

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