Iowa

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

65

State rating (out of 100)

  • Board composition: 83
    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: 68
    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
      The state's sexual exploitation law includes acts by a therapist with a client or former client for up to one year who is emotionally dependent, meaning that the client is significantly impaired in the ability to withhold consent. Any physician who provides or purports to provide mental health services is covered by the law. If the sexual conduct is found to be a pattern or practice or scheme of conduct, it is a felony offense.

More from Iowa

Highlighted case

Dr. David V. Gierlus

After a plea deal that spared him from prosecution on 94 charges, Gierlus was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for a drugs-for-sex scheme. Prosecutors had asked for a harsher sentence because of what they called a long pattern of predatory behavior.

Gierlus used vibrators and sex tools during appointments and targeted women with troubled pasts, including women who had suffered sexual abuse as children, the judge said. At least three of the dozen identified victims said the doctor first injected them with a "date rape" drug in his office during an exam.

Officials said there may have been many more victims, and they noted that because many of the women were on public assistance, taxpayers financed his acts.

Gierlus surrendered his license in 2013.

The Journal-Constitution has been unable to reach Gierlus for comment.

Researching a doctor

  • Accurate records of sexual abuse accusations against doctors are not always easily accessible. In Iowa, the best chance of finding problems is to search the records offered by the Iowa Board of Medicine. 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

The board investigates anonymous complaints, which it says routinely arrive by e-mail, FAX, phonecalls and postal mail. The board also says that its investigative file is shared with a physician only when the board files charges.

Where to file a complaint

Quoted

“Revocation is the nuclear option…There is this notion of a second chance on some things.”

— Mark Bowden, executive director of the Iowa Board of Medicine

Key fact

The AJC review found that regulators rarely issue public orders against doctors who fail to report sex abuse by another physician. However, Iowa sanctioned two doctors who the board said failed to notify it about abuse by another doctor. Also, Iowa's confidential program for impaired physicians states that impairment does not include sexual compulsivity, sexual addiction or other sexual disorders.

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