A committee of Mississippi doctors is reviewing its procedures for dealing with physicians accused of sexually assaulting patients.
Whether it's inappropriately touching a patient while under anesthesia or during an exam, Dr. John Hall says physician sexual assault is a breach of ethics. The executive director of the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure wants members to take a hard line on the issue. He says current state regulations don't specifically mention sexual assault. The behavior falls under the category of unprofessional conduct.
"There is no other more intimate relationship. Our clergy never get us out of clothes. Our insurance agents never get us out of our clothes. We don't tell anybody the thing that we tell doctors. So, that is a very special relationship we need to preserve and protect," said Hall.
Hall says they're investigating about six complaints of patients having sex with physicians. He says a patient's consent isn't a valid excuse in such cases. Hall doesn't know the extent of the problem. Victims are reluctant to come forward. But a nationwide investigation by the Atlanta Journal Constitution about the issue has the state board looking at its policies. The report rated Mississippi 37 out of 100 in categories including discipline and reporting incidents. Right now, the board can only revoke a physician's license. But the doctor can petition to have it reinstated annually. Dr. William Mayo chairs the board's rules committee.
"What we are doing now is beginning to gather information from other states so we can in essence take a quick pulse of the nation, of what is going on, so that we are better informed and based on that knowledge try to move forward," said Mayo.
Dr. Mayo says the process will take time. Dr. Hall says they're upgrading the website. People can now find detailed information about disciplinary action taken against physicians in the state.