Pennsylvania

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

53

State rating (out of 100)

  • Duty-to-report laws: 56
    Are colleagues and institutions that are aware of potential physician misconduct required to notify regulators? More...
    To break the code of silence that can shield abusive doctors, the best states have laws requiring all physicians and health care institutions to notify regulators of potential violations. To assess these laws, the AJC used five measures. Top grades went to states where a broad range of health care facilities, not only hospitals, are required to notify regulators of alleged physician misconduct; where there is a deadline of no more than 30 days for making those reports; where penalties for failing to report are clear and significant; where doctors are required to report fellow practitioners; and where courts or law enforcement agencies must notify regulators when a doctor is criminally convicted.
    • Which health care facilities must report doctors to medical regulators?: 20 of 20
      Health care facilities and hospitals must report actions curtailing a doctor's privileges or employment where the hospital has reasonable cause to believe malpractice or misconduct occurred. Hospitals also must report when a doctor resigns or withdraws privileges to avoid discipline and when hospitals receive written information that establishes a physician has been convicted of a felony.
    • Are physicians required to report peers?: 10 of 20
      Physicians are required to report colleagues with addictive diseases for which they are not being treated; diversion of controlled substances; and mental or physical incompetence to carry out the duties of their license. State law doesn't require them to report other violations.
  • Board composition: 70
    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.

More from Pennsylvania

Highlighted case

Dr. Thomas Allen Tyma

The rheumatologist was convicted on 18 counts of indecent assault of female patients. Two of the victims said they believed they were targeted because they were vulnerable. Some testified that they tried to switch to a different physician in Tyma's practice but could not and were forced to return to him.

Among the former patients who testified was a woman who once counseled sexual assault victims; she said she didn’t go to police with her allegations until she learned of Tyma's arrest in 2011.

“I knew how bad it would be,” she said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In March 2011, as the criminal case against Tyma was pending, his license was temporarily suspended, but he was reinstated with no restrictions in August 2011.

In March 2012, he was again temporarily suspended. Following his conviction and sentencing to 60 days in jail, his license was revoked in late 2012.

The case is currently on appeal, Tyma’s attorney, Chris Eyster, told the AJC in an email. He said he believes they’ll be successful in getting the case appealed.

“In my professional opinion, his conviction was a travesty of justice and his counsel did not properly present his defense at trial,” Eyster wrote. “All of Dr. Tyma’s conduct here was done in the furtherance of appropriate medical treatment.”

Researching a doctor

  • Accurate records of sexual abuse accusations against doctors are not always easily accessible. In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine and the Pennsylvania State Board of Osteopathic Medicine regulate medical professionals. Actions issued by both boards can be found on the same website here. 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 complaint form online warns that submitting false information is subject to criminal penalties, and those who sign the form must attest that the information in the complaint are true. Complaints may be submitted anonymously. They are filed with the Department of State. However, the complaint form advises that no information about the case can be shared when the complaint is anonymous.

Where to file a complaint

Quoted

“The appropriate penalty does not demand punishment, but education and an understanding of boundary parameters.”

— A Pennsylvania hearing examiner, explaining the decision to allow a doctor who fondled the breasts of two patients to continue practice if he takes a course in medical ethics.

Key fact

Board orders on a number of doctors found to have sexually violated patients have been removed from the state licensing agency's website. The public must file written requests to obtain those orders.

  1. Click here to find your state!