Minnesota

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

73

State rating (out of 100)

  • Board composition: 75
    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: 48
    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
      When a psychotherapist engages in sexual penetration with a patient during the treatment session or outside of it when an ongoing doctor-patient relationship exists, it is a criminal offense. Consent is not a defense. Also, a crime occurs when the victim is a former patient who was emotionally dependent; when sexual penetration occurred by therapeutic deception; or when the doctor represents it is for bona fide medical purposes. Also, criminal sexual conduct in the forth degree is committed in these same scenarios with sexual contact.
  • Discipline laws: 83
    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.
    • Does state law require revocation for some violations? Can revocation be permanent?: 28 of 25
      Automatic permanent revocation is imposed on physicians convicted of felony-level criminal sexual conduct offenses. Automatic suspension is mandated in some cases, including when person is determined to be sexually dangerous. Licenses are automatically suspended for felonies reasonably related to the practice of medicine. State law also says that in proceedings for suspension or revocation of a license or other disciplinary action involving sexual contact with a patient or former patient, the board or administrative law judge shall not consider evidence of the patient's previous sexual conduct or make any reference to it during the proceedings

More from Minnesota

Highlighted case

Dr. Christopher J. Kovanda

In January 2008, the board received a complaint that Kovanda had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct, including suggestive language and suggestive touching, with a patient during clinic visits to discuss plastic surgery. The board investigated but decided that September to close the matter.

In December 2008, the board received another complaint alleging Kovanda had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with a patient during clinic visits following cosmetic surgery. The board decided then to ask the attorney general’s office to investigate his conduct with both patients. But after he appeared before the Complaint Review Committee in April 2010, the board decided to close the matter. But in January 2011 a third patient made similar allegations and also said that she and Kovanda had sex at his home following a post-operative exam at his clinic. The doctor said that the day of the sexual encounter, he had terminated his doctor-patient relationship with her.

The board noted that the complaint resembled those made by the first two patients, noting that Kovanda had said he “can’t explain why the three patients report similar experiences” during clinic visits. The doctor also said he had implemented changes to his practice to prevent further complaints.

The board reprimanded him and required the presence of a female chaperone and other conditions.

Kovanda has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Researching a doctor

  • Accurate records of sexual abuse accusations against doctors are not always easily accessible. In Minnesota, the best chance of finding problems is to search the records offered by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice. 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 all complaints, including anonymous ones. But the board's website advises talking with the doctor in question, a chief of staff or clinic manager before filing a complaint. If that isn't appropriate, the website advises calling the board to discuss the concerns. It then may send a complaint form. The form requires a notarized signature. Also, under state law, the physician's response to a complaint is not available to the person who filed it.

Where to file a complaint

Quoted

“Notwithstanding Respondent’s egregious conduct, it is recognized that it is not the function of Board to punish. … Our primary mission is to protect the public from further harm.”

— Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, commenting in the 1995 case of a doctor who had pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct with patients and was accused of having 21 victims. The board allowed him to return to practice, limiting him to male patients only. In 1999, it revoked his license, saying he had violated his agreement.

Key fact

State law says that the license of a physician convicted of a felony-level criminal sexual conduct offense is automatically revoked. The state board in 2015 was in the process of implementing criminal background checks for doctors, as a result of new legislation. The deadline for completing them is 2018.

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