Sexual Abuse By Doctors Toward Patients Is Disturbingly Common & Frequently Unpunished

A new report by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has uncovered a disturbing pattern throughout the country. Abuse of children and other patients at the hands of doctors is widespread, and it's not being adequately addressed.

The investigation analyzed over 100,000 documents involving accusations of sexual misconduct against doctors since 1999. They identified 3,100 medical professionals who were punished for sexual misconduct during this time. Of the 2,400 doctors accused of misconduct by patients, half still possess medical licenses.

The others were accused of a range of crimes including child pornography, sexual assault, and sexual harassment of employees. Many of them maintained their practices as well. In Georgia and Kansas, two thirds of doctors publicly sanctioned for sexual misconduct kept their jobs.

Most of the charges were not made public, the report found. Medical boards often removed the records from their websites, and documents did not clearly state what crimes had occurred. Only 11 states require that medical facilities contact law enforcement when doctors sexually abuse adult patients. Often, the report states, doctors found guilty of sexual crimes are given therapeutic treatment and allowed back.

Since the data has come out, many have shared their own harrowing stories of sexual abuse at the hands of their doctors.

"While the vast majority of the nation’s 900,000 doctors do not sexually abuse patients, the AJC found the phenomenon is akin to the priest scandal: It doesn’t necessarily happen every day, but it happens far more often than anyone has acknowledged," the report reads. "Over and over again, records show, predatory physicians took advantage of a doctor’s special privilege — the daily practice of asking trusting people to disrobe in a private room and permit themselves to be touched."

David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in the report that medical facilities need to release information about cases of sexual abuse and bring them to law enforcement.

“We are so reliant on [doctors], we are so helpless and vulnerable and literally in pain often times when we go in there. We just have to trust them,” he said. “So, when they cross the boundary and their hands go into the wrong places, we are in shock, we are paralyzed, we’re confused, we’re scared.

"We just do not want to believe, first of all, that a doctor is capable of this, and secondly that their colleagues and supervisors will not address this immediately and effectively when we report it.”

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