South Dakota

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

47

State rating (out of 100)

  • Board composition: 60
    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.

More from South Dakota

Highlighted case

Dr. Marden Lee Brown

In 2003, Brown voluntarily surrendered his license in South Dakota, and the board revoked him for an indefinite period of time.

Learning of those actions, the Montana Board of Medical Examiners sought to find out the underlying reasons, since the doctor also was licensed in that state. But South Dakota wouldn’t tell the Montana medical board, and Brown didn’t respond to the Montana board’s inquiries.

The board eventually found out on its own that in January 2004, Brown was sentenced to prison for 30 years after being convicted on three counts of sexual contact with a child.

Efforts to reach Brown for comment have been unsuccessful.

Researching a doctor

  • Accurate records of sexual abuse accusations against doctors are not always easily accessible. In South Dakota, the best chance of finding problems is to search the order records offered by the South Dakota Board of Medical & Osteopathic Examiners. 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. But those who file a signed complaint get an acknowledgement and are notified when the board makes a decision on the case. The board's online submission form also advises that the signed complaint may be a matter of public record.

Where to file a complaint

Quoted

“We hold that for tort liability purposes, sexual misconduct falls within the definition of malpractice.”

— South Dakota Supreme Court in a 2000 ruling on a civil case involving a doctor who was appealing a malpractice verdict in which three women who accused him of raping them during exams were awarded $1.5 million. The doctor's insurer then appealed, saying it only covered him for professional services and had no duty to indemnify him for rape. The court ruled that the jury properly found that unorthodox methods he used in the women’s exams fell below the standard of care for physicians and so constituted malpractice. He was acquitted of criminal charges in the case.

Key fact

The state board holds confidential physician hearings from which none of the evidence or testimony is "subject to discovery or disclosure," meaning it cannot be used in action of any kind in court or arbitration. Under state law, "No person in attendance at any hearing of the Board of Examiners considering cancellation, revocation, suspension or limitation of a license,… may be required to testify as to what transpired at such meeting."

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