By JACK WEATHERLY
Dr. John Hall, executive director of the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure, is working with lawmakers to draft a bill to make a physician’s sexual relations with a patient a criminal offense.
No doctor “should even think of patients as prey,” Hall said in an interview.
Hall, who was named to the post about five months ago, said, “If it happens, I’m going find you.” He noted that he has an ongoing complaint program.
The aggressive approach coincides with a series published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that ranks Mississippi 51st, including the District of Columbia, in how well it protects patients from sexually abusive physicians.
It scored 30 out of a possible 100 points.
“I’m hoping to add this to the criminal code rather than the medical practice act,” Hall said in an email. “As a felony penalty [it] would include permanent ineligibility for [Mississippi] medical licensure (something [the licensure board] could not do by current medical practice act or regulations), as well as possibly jail/prison time and perhaps some form of restitution.”
Hall, who also has a law degree, argues that “consent” by a patient is “impossible,” because of what he calls an “insurmountable power barrier.”
He said he is aware of reports of situations where there are women doctors who prey on men, other women and same-sex male predation.
“It’s as soul-crushing as the Boston Diocese,” Hall said of the scandal in which the Catholic hierarchy protected priests who had sexually abused children.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that “only 11 states have a law requiring medical authorities to report to police or a prosecutor when they suspect a sexual crime has been committed against an adult.”
Hall said that the state of Washington has what appears to him to be a good model for Mississippi.
Dr. Lee Voulters, president of the Mississippi State Medical Association, which represents 70 percent of practicing physicians in the state, said that he had not heard that Hall, who must have the consent of the licensure board, was moving forward with the proposed legislation.
But he said: “We’re all supportive of the fact that a physician should not have sexual relations with a patient. They are in a position of power and influence. It’s unethical, it’s immoral and it shouldn’t happen.”
“Our No. 1 goal is patient safety,” Voulters said. “My only hesitation is what should the punishment be.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that “since the grading was completed, Mississippi has begun to make improvements in transparency, removing barriers to disciplinary information about doctors.”
The board will do away with the $25 fee for going beyond a generic description of a board action against a physician.
Consumer Reports in April ranked Mississippi last among 65 medical licensing boards in the nation. Hall’s goal is to have the new website up by spring.
He said that views have changed with attitudes toward physician misconduct. There is simply not as much tolerance as in the past, he said.
“Some in the past who had licenses would not have one now,” he said.
“Fifteen years ago, we didn’t even talk about disruptive physicians.”
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