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 Montana 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: 24
    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 Montana

Highlighted case

Dr. Donald Eugene Russell

After Russell was arrested in 2003 on charges he had molested three children, a judge allowed him to continue practice on the condition that he had supervision while treating minors, according to news reports. Then, in May 2003, the Board of Medical Examiners issued an emergency suspension of his license.

The board found that in April 2003, he had had sex with an 84-year-old patient likely suffering from dementia, another patient in her 80s, and two other women.

The 84-year-old had gone to another doctor and asked to be tested for a sexually transmitted disease, telling that doctor she had unprotected sex with Russell in his office. That doctor was skeptical, thinking the woman may have confused a vaginal exam with sex. But he reported the information to local police and an agency that deals with elder abuse.

A state investigator contacted the county health department to see if Russell had reported a sexually transmitted disease and disclosed his sexual contacts. He had. The investigator was given the names of four women. The 84-year-old was among them.

Medical scheduling records showed that she and another woman in her 80s were patients. Investigators couldn’t determine whether the other two women were patients.

The Montana Board of Medical Examiners revoked his license in July 2003.

Russell was convicted in 2004 of three counts of sexual assault against a minor and sent to prison. He has since been released and is a registered sex offender.

“I can say that in my experience with dealing with the legal system, I perceive that there are more than one side to every story,” Russell told the Journal-Constitution in a phone interview, “and the legal system is of course dedicated to painting as bad, as malicious a picture as possible for conviction, which does not fully bring out the light of the two circumstances in these cases.”

Researching a doctor

  • Accurate records of sexual abuse accusations against doctors are not always easily accessible. In Montana, the best chance of finding problems is to search records offered by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, Business Standards Division. However, the agency’s website notes, “All disciplinary documents are temporarily unavailable due to a system upgrade,” and the user is directed to an email address to request those documents. 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

If a member of the screening panel agrees, the board may authorize investigations of anonymous complaints. The board's website says that the person filing the complaint is not entitled to a copy of the doctor's response but will be notified of the date and time of any meeting where the case will be discussed.

Where to file a complaint


“To determine which sanctions are appropriate, the board shall first consider the sanctions that are necessary to protect or compensate the public. Only after the determination has been made may the board consider and include in the order any requirements designed to rehabilitate the licensee or license applicant.”

— Montana law on how Board of Medical Examiners must determine disciplinary sanctions for doctors.

Key fact

Montana had one doctor on active probation in mid-2015, and four doctors suspended, among 4,990 actively licensed medical doctors, according to information the state provided to the AJC through an open records request.

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