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


State rating (out of 100)

  • Board composition: 85
    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: 68
    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?: 40 of 40
      Sexual exploitation by a physician and surgeon or psychotherapist is a public offense. The law covers sexual intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation or sexual contact with a patient or former patient if the relationship was terminated primarily for the sex, unless the doctor has referred the patient or client to an objective physician or psychotherapist or alcohol and drug abuse counselor. Punishment is up to six months in jail; if two or more victims or two or more acts, up to 3 years in jail.
  • Discipline laws: 63
    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?: 23 of 25
      Revocation can be permanent only for as long as a medical doctor remains a registered felony sex offender. Note that offenders who have completed probation can be removed from the registry in certain circumstances. Offenders can also be removed by getting a certificate of rehabilitation from a court or a governor's pardon. Revocation is required for any doctor who engages in repeated acts of sexual exploitation. The osteopathic board reports that it can permanently revoke

More from California

Highlighted case

Dr. Jeffrey Joel Abrams

Abrams, a San Diego doctor at a clinic for low-income patients, admitted to eight counts of penetration of an unconscious person and taking more than 1,300 sexually explicit photos of female patients. One patient he photographed was 8 years old.

A judge in 2015 suspended a 25-year sentence for Abrams, who has cancer, and ordered him to one year of house arrest and five years' probation instead of prison. While Abrams was under investigation, in October 2014, the medical board temporarily suspended his license. In April 2016, citing his conviction, the state initiated steps to revoke the license. He surrendered it the next month.

Abrams’ attorney 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 California, the Medical Board of California regulates physicians and surgeons. You can search for those actions here. For osteopathic physicians, actions are listed on the California Department of Consumer Affairs 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

Complaints can be filed anonymously, and complaints are also accepted from those who wish to be confidential informants. There is an online tutorial on how to submit anonymous complaints. The board also accepts complaints from individuals who wish to designate themselves as confidential informants. In those cases, investigators may use a code name for the person filing the complaint. State law allows for undercover investigations.

Where to file a complaint


“She did not fight him off for fear of being beaten.”

—The California Board of Medicine, regarding a victim in the case in the case of Dr. Kevin Antario Brown, who molested at least 12 patients. In 2011, he was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison after being convicted on 23 counts of sexual offenses.

Key fact

Under the statute of limitations the Board of Medicine must transmit an accusation of doctor sexual misconduct to the attorney general’s office within three years of discovering it, or within 10 years after the act occurs. In cases involving minors, the clock does not begin to run on the 10-year limitations period “until the minor reaches the age of majority.”

  1. Click here to find your state!