West Virginia

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

62

State rating (out of 100)

  • Duty-to-report laws: 76
    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?: 12 of 20
      The CEO of every hospital must report doctors whose privileges have been revoked, restricted, reduced or terminated for any cause, including resignation. Included with the report must be all pertinent information related to the action. The reporting law doesn't apply to nursing homes or clinics, however medical peer review committees must report information related to the practice or performance of any physician if the board requests it.
  • Board composition: 68
    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.
    • Is the public well represented?: 35 of 50
      The 15-member medical board is composed of three public members, eight physicians, the state health officer, two podiatrists and one physician assistant. The osteopathic board has five physicians, two public members and one physician assistant.
    • Are public members independent and do they represent consumers?: 20 of 25
      On the medical board, state law says that lay members and their family members can't be employed by health care providers and no member can be on any political party's executive committee. For the osteopathic board, the law says the two public members cannot be associated with the practice of osteopathic medicine.
  • Criminal acts: 40
    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?: 16 of 40
      In 2016, a new law was approved creating the crime of prohibited sexual contact by a psychotherapist. It is illegal for a psychiatrist or other therapist to engage in sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a client or patient by means of therapeutic deception - meaning that the therapist represents that the sexual contact or intercourse is consistent with or part of the treatment. This is a felony offense which brings a sentence of up to 5 years. The law states that consent is not a defense.
  • Discipline laws: 65
    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?: 10 of 25
      The Board of Medicine cannot permanently revoke a license. But it can have permanent surrender of a license. It must revoke the license of a doctor who is convicted of any felony involving prescription drugs, but it may reinstate the doctor after his or her sentence is completed. The Board of Osteopathic Medicine doesn't have a time limit on revocation; an applicant can reapply any time. The Board of Osteopathic Medicine is not required to revoke the licenses of doctors convicted of felonies involving prescription drugs.

More from West Virginia

Highlighted case

Dr. Kenneth Seen

In 2012, the West Virginia board received a report from the National Practitioner Data Bank that a hospital had issued an emergency suspension of Seen's privileges because of an incident with an elderly patient. The patient, who reportedly suffered from dementia and Parkinson’s disease, bit off part of the doctor’s tongue, and the doctor was later arrested for sexually motivated battery, accused of sticking his tongue in the man’s mouth.

Seen, who also was a minister, was arrested and charged in a separate incident with felony child abuse, following allegations he had grabbed a teen and thrown him to the ground.

He was convicted of sexually motivated battery, but he fought the charge up to the state Supreme Court, arguing there was insufficient evidence for conviction or to show sexual motivation.

The court ruled that Seen wasn’t given sufficient notice that the prosecutor would argue that the incident was sexually motivated and vacated the requirement that he register as a sex offender. His license has remained suspended since 2012.

Seen 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 West Virginia, the West Virginia Board of Medicine regulates MD physicians and surgeons. You can search for those actions here. Osteopathic physicians are regulated by the West Virginia Board of Osteopathic Medicine. That board's actions are listed on its website. 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

While the person filing a complaint is required to swear that the information is true and that he or she will appear and testify if requested, both boards say they will review anonymous complaints and take action, if warranted. For signed complaints, the website form advises that a signed complaint is a matter of public record, and once a final decision is reached, the complaint questionnaire becomes available to the public.

Where to file a complaint

Quoted

“It is unprofessional conduct to expose a patient for longer than is medically necessary, that the only reason to expose both breasts during a breast exam is to check for symmetry and …this can be accomplished in 10 seconds.”

— A board of medicine order regarding a gynecologist’s exams of three patients. After a breast exam, he left one patient exposed while he conducted eye and other exams of her, the board found.

Key fact

The West Virginia Board of Medicine, without filing charges or a formal complaint, agreed in 2014 to allow a registered sex offender -- a psychiatrist -- to practice while on probation. The psychiatrist, who had pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a minor, was barred from treating any patients under age 18 or those with any sexual disorders.

  1. Click here to find your state!