California is known for its progressive ideals and a worker-friendly, gender-neutral legal system and, it’s leading the way in combating sexual harassment.
The state’s medical board is also known for its stringent licensing process and regulations. Despite this, sexual misconduct remains a major problem in the state’s medical community.
The Prevalence of Sexual Misconduct in California’s Medical Community
Every year, the California Medical Board receives around 200 complaints of sexual misconduct involving physicians in the state.
Activists, however, claim that the actual number of sexual misconduct cases in the medical community is far higher and many of the cases are not reported to the board at all.
Even in cases where the victims come forward and file a report, the board tends to be quite lenient towards the physicians accused of sexual misconduct. Data shows that in more than 30% of cases, the physicians accused of sexually inappropriate behavior by their patients only received probation.
In some cases, physicians accused of sexual misconduct received probation more than once and it apparently had no effect on their career or conduct.
In fact, studies show that physicians who are accused of sexual misconduct or abuse have a pattern of behaving inappropriately with their patients for years. In a vast majority of cases, it does not stop with a single victim.
For example, in 2002, Dr. Patrick Sutton of Pasadena was placed on a four-year probation following allegations of sexual misconduct with female patients.
In 2011, he was again accused of sexual misconduct by several patients, following which the board placed him on probation for three years.
Cases like these goes to show that physicians accused of sexual misconduct are often given second chances by the system, which they take full advantage of. The victims, on the other hand, are forced to live with the trauma for the rest of their lives.
The Problem with Probation as a Punishment
The problem with physicians who are accused of sexual misconduct being placed on probation is that it cannot be considered a punitive or even a disciplinary measure in most cases. The physicians in such cases are required to have a chaperone with them while treating female patients, which is only a temporary arrangement.
After the probation is over, they are allowed to treat female patients without having a nurse or chaperone around.
In many cases, physicians accused of sexual misconduct are asked to undergo psychotherapy and take ethics classes, which they are happy to do. There is, however, not enough data available to suggest that these measures have any effect on a physician’s conduct.
California’s Patient Protection Legislation
The silver lining in the cloud is that the state administration is aware of the problem and is taking steps to address it. In September of 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the much-needed patient protection legislation, which comes into effect in July.
The legislation requires physicians, who have been placed on probation due to allegations of sexual misconduct, to inform their patients – especially women – of their probation.
It not only prevents the perpetrators from continuing their behavior, but also sends a warning signal to female patients, who otherwise might let their guard down in the presence of a doctor.
Makarem & Associates – California Sexual Misconduct Lawyers
The attorneys at Makarem & Associates specialize in handling sexual misconduct lawsuits and have a history of successfully representing a number of victims from different walks of life.
If you are on the receiving end of what can be considered sexually inappropriate behavior – at your workplace or anywhere else – do not put up with it. Get in touch with our attorneys and we can make sure you get justice.