In Ohio, a stalled bill designed to strengthen professional penalties for doctor sexual abuse may get a fresh look this year from Ohio lawmakers, according to the Columbus Dispatch. The bill had stalled in last year's session but is being reconsidered in the wake of a press investigation that uncovered a systemic issue with doctor sex abuse in the state, including dozens of physicians that are still in practice after being disciplined. The bill has the endorsement of Governor DeWine and the State Medical Board of Ohio.
If passed in its current form, three of the most poignant provisions of the bill would include:
- Required disclosure by doctors on probation. Under the bill, physicians on probation for sexual misconduct would be required by law to inform their patients of their probation.
- Automatic suspension for disciplinary actions in other states. Any Ohio-licensed physician who had their license suspended or revoked in another state or who was indicted would face an automatic 90-day suspension of their Ohio medical license.
- More transparency during investigations. The Ohio Board of Medicine would be authorized to disclose the status of a license investigation with the person who filed the complaint.
Ramifications for Licensed Physicians
While the intent of this bill is to provide stronger protections for the public against instances of physician sexual abuse, it also presents some unpleasant difficulties for doctors who may be falsely accused, as well as physicians who are disciplined for lesser instances of sexual misconduct. For example, a doctor on probation by the Board of Medicine would probably not have committed a serious offense (i.e., worthy of losing their license), yet under this law, the doctor would be forced to disclose this unflattering information with patients--thereby causing unfair and unnecessary harm to their practice. Likewise, any doctor seeking a fresh start in Ohio after being unfairly disciplined in another state would now have to face additional repercussions in Ohio.
The gist of these concerns is that this bill in its current form may be overreaching by penalizing the innocent (or lesser offenders) right along with more serious offenders. Ohio lawmakers should make sure to consider the ramifications of this law on all licensed physicians, not just those who have been disciplined for sexual abuse.
A Growing Trend?
The Ohio bill may be indicative of a larger trend as more states consider tightening penalties for physicians believed to have abused their patients. The State of California has already passed a similar law requiring doctors to notify patients if they are on probation, along with a more recent law permanently banning any physician found guilty of sexual misconduct from ever practicing in the state again. While laws like these bring some much-needed accountability where oversight has been lacking, they also have the potential to be misused in a way that hurts doctors who are falsely accused. At the very least, stories like these underscore the need for physicians to have an experienced professional licensed defense attorney in their corner at the first indication of allegations of misconduct.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his professional license defense team have years of nationwide experience assisting physicians and other licensed professionals whose licenses are at risk. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.