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


State rating (out of 100)

  • Duty-to-report laws: 64
    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
      The chief administrator or executive officer of hospitals must report within 15 days when a doctor's practice is restricted, suspended, limited or terminated for unprofessional conduct or if a doctor voluntarily restricts or surrenders privileges while under investigation or in lieu of an investigation. In addition, ambulatory surgery facilities, childbirth centers, nursing homes, and other facilities must report when a license holder's services are terminated or restrict because of harm or unreasonable risk of harm to a patient or client. Reports are made to the Department of Health. It gives the report to the appropriate disciplinary authority.
  • Board composition: 78
    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 21-member medical commission is composed of six public members, 13 physician and two physician assistants. The osteopathic board has one public member and six physicians.
    • Are public members independent and do they represent consumers?: 20 of 25
      Public members of either board cannot have a financial or material interest in rendering health services or a fiduciary responsibility to an institution that does. On the medical board, state law says that at least two of the public members cannot be from the health care industry. On the osteopathic board, the public member is recruited through community organizations and cannot have a spouse, parent, child or sibling with a financial interest in health care delivery systems.
  • Criminal acts: 64
    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.
    • Are physicians required to undergo criminal background checks?: 20 of 40
      Required at initial application, through the Washington State Patrol. For those applicants, fingerprints are not required. However, the state Department of Health also requires federal fingerprint checks for certain applicants and licensees, largely on those coming from outside of Washington or those with a criminal history in Washington.
    • Has the state criminalized sexual misconduct involving doctors and patients?: 32 of 40
      It is a criminal offense for a health care provider to have sexual intercourse or make sexual contact with a patient or client during a treatment session, consultation, interview or examination. The doctor must prove by a preponderance of evidence that the patient consented with the knowledge that the intercourse was not for the purpose of treatment. The board notes that for disciplinary purposes, rather than criminal, the Osteopathic Board has a rule that consent is not a defense.
  • Discipline laws: 60
    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.
    • What is the standard of proof for regulators to impose disciplinary sanctions?: 5 of 25
      The state requires clear and convincing evidence to prove a disciplinary case against a medical doctor. That may make it hard to prove a sexual misconduct case when it may be a patient's word against a doctor's. Most states require a preponderance of evidence to impose discipline. The state notes that for Osteopaths, cases are prosecuted to satisfy both the preponderance of evidence and clear and convincing standards, in order to avoid issues if the case is appealed.

More from Washington

Highlighted case

Dr. Charles Momah

According to court documents, a woman called Momah, an OB/gyn, to request emergency contraception. Momah gave her birth control pills, had her change into an exam gown, and then did a manual exam. He began massaging her clitoris. Then he pulled down his pants and underwear, got on top of her and raped her.

When she asked what he was doing, he said, “You know you want it.” She told him to stop but he didn’t.

Then he told her to come into the office and left the room. She wiped off his semen and got dressed and went to his office. There, the doctor threatened to reveal her history of narcotic dependence if she reported him to police, and that her child would be taken away from her.

Momah made almost identical threats to another patient after he raped her in 1998.

In that case, he called her into his office and said, “You know you wanted it and I can make you feel good,” then exposed his penis and pushed her head down and forced it into her mouth. Then he told her to go into the operating room and take off her clothes, where he raped her. In addition to saying she would lose her child if she reported him, Momah told her he had written in her patient chart that she was a “drug seeker.”

The state board detailed a long list of offenses – rape, sexual touching, predatory behavior, neglect, incompetence, overprescribing of drugs, unnecessary procedures and phony billing – when it suspended Momah in 2003.

He was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In a lawsuit filed the same year, eight women said that the state had failed to act on their complaints. The suit alleged the gynecologist had victimized anywhere from 60 to 500 women.

"He is a rapist, a pervert, a fraud, a liar, a butcher, a drug pusher who scarred a lot of women," the Seattle Post-Intelligencer quoted a former patient as saying during Momah’s sentencing. "It breaks my heart that he hurt his family, [but] not one of those family members were in his office.”

Momah’s license was revoked in 2006.

Researching a doctor

  • Accurate records of sexual abuse accusations against doctors are not always easily accessible. In Washington, the Washington State Medical Commission regulates MD physicians. Osteopathic physicians are regulated by the Washington State Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery. 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

While the board says it investigates anonymous complaints, a state website advises that they are difficult to investigate. The website also advises that under the public records law, the state cannot withhold the names of those who complain unless they qualify as whistleblowers. The identity of a whistleblower who complains in good faith remains confidential.

Where to file a complaint


“Several member of the Commission expressed their admiration of the [doctor’s] conduct throughout this disciplinary process, and the obvious personal progress he made over the years he has been subject to the Prior Order.”

— The Medical Quality Assurance Commission, commenting on a doctor whose license was restricted after he was accused of various acts involving patients, including masturbating while doing a rectal exam of a patient and commenting on men’s genitals and asking them to take part in three-way sex. The board lifted all restrictions in 2002, noting he was serving a primarily geriatric population in various adult care homes and found that work “quite fulfilling.” The doctor was ordered to surrender his license in 2014 after he was caught smoking meth.

Key fact

The state’s criminal code has special categories of second-degree rape and indecent liberties for violators who are health care providers. If sexual intercourse occurs between a doctor and patient during a treatment session, consultation, interview or exam, the doctor is guilty of rape in the second degree, though the doctor may argue that the patient consented knowing the sexual act was not for treatment. A doctor is guilty of indecent liberties when there is other sexual contact with a patient and it occurs during treatment, consultation, interview or exams.

  1. Click here to find your state!