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Taking aim at physician sex predators; Mississippi ranked 51st in patient protection

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.

» READ MORE: A case in Mississippi

“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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About Jack Weatherly

2 comments

  1. Important for patient protection but in the overall grand scheme of our present political disruption I would place this at about 55 out of 50 items most urgent for the State and Nation.
    How about a lack of Doctors in rural areas?
    How about ridding our system of the Washington based intrusion in Medical care.
    How about getting the bureaucracy out of the business of Doctor / Patient decisions on medicines to relieve end of life pain.
    I could name the other 50 but I think you get the idea.
    Get the Government and Lawyers out of Medicine-Doctors have enough problems with patients believing that Doctors are God and can solve their every pain that their choices caused. The air waves are filled with lawyers getting rich telling the shepple that they will make Big Pharma or the unscrupulous doctors pay.( lawyers 70% and the class action split 30%). I would venture an educated guess that from what I have seen in the last 10 years of in and out for heart disease, a good 80% of the patients would be fine with two aspirin and a good nights sleep. I would settle for a good night sleep.

  2. I ditto Carl Casino above. It may be appropriate to sanction physicians “preying” on patients/any vulnerable person. If so, what about nurse predators? Or hospital administrators? Or insurance salesmen? Or school administrators? College professors? Or, God forbid, Lawyers? As physicians we already face a myriad of sanctions that do not apply to any other profession…such as a simple billing error classified as fraud. Perhaps the apparent holier than thou Dr. Hall should broaden his net. If somewhere in the 10’s of thousands of current laws and rules this problem is not covered then at the very least any new laws should apply across the board and not single out the medical profession.

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