Kentucky

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

62

State rating (out of 100)

  • Board composition: 55
    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: 42
    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 Kentucky

Highlighted case

Dr. Eric Norsworthy

Norsworthy was the subject of board orders in 1989, 1990, 1993, 2000 and 2002. He was accused of fondling or cupping women’s breasts during examinations on several different occasions. Two patients said he had sexual intercourse with them after giving them some medication. He denied the allegations.

The board ordered him to undergo counseling and required him to have a chaperone during exams of female patients. Then, after another complaint about inappropriate touching, the board tried to prohibit him from ever examining female patients again.

Norsworthy fought that 2008 order. He tried to discredit the patient and brought in more than 450 signatures of support from the public. The gallery at his hearing was packed with people wearing yellow shirts in support of him.

A court eventually ruled that he would suffer an immediate injury by being restricted from treating female patients, since 70 percent of his patients were women. But the board appealed, and the state Supreme Court upheld the ban.

Then, after a jury trial in 2010, Norsworthy was convicted of intentional disclosure of private medical records; he had accessed private medical information to attack a patient who had filed a sexual abuse grievance against him.

He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Norsworthy was one of about 200 people pardoned by outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear in December 2015.

Norsworthy told the Journal-Constitution in an interview that the sexual misconduct accusations against him were trumped up and said he is still trying to have his record expunged.

Researching a doctor

  • Accurate records of sexual abuse accusations against doctors are not always easily accessible. In Kentucky, the best chance of finding problems is to search the records offered by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure. 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 online form warns that filing a grievance of unprofessional conduct against a physician is a serious matter. That form also asks for a signature, full names and addresses of all physicians involved, and the contact information for the person filing the complaint. What's more, the board advises that it would be helpful to list the particular section of state statute that the physician may be violating. And the FAQs on the website say that the board "typically distrusts anonymous grievances and, as a general rule, requires each grievance to be signed and notarized." Then, the form warns that if the board starts proceedings, the person filing the complaint will likely be required to testify, and that there is no state law to provide confidentiality to the person filing the complaint or other witnesses. Despite all that, the board said that the board can recommend investigation of an anonymous complaint.

Where to file a complaint

Quoted

“[The doctor] underwent an unusual amount of personal stress due to business difficulties, a failing marriage, the untimely passing of his mother and a growing medical practice.”

— The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, commenting on a doctor accused in a drugs-for-sex scheme that may have had a dozen victims. The doctor completed his probation in September 2014, and the board agreed to restore his license, on a restricted basis, the next month.

Key fact

Only “current” board orders relating to actions against a physician’s license are available online. The public must file written Open Records Law requests to obtain other orders.

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