Mississippi physicians who have sex with their patients could soon face prison time, if a bill in the state legislature passes.
House Bill 340 would make it a felony for physicians to have sex with a patient. They'd also face up to five years in prison and up to a $100,000 fine or both. Dr. john Hall is with the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure. He says cases of sexual misconduct are rare, but do happen. Right now they're investigating six cases. He says medical providers sometimes report their colleagues. Sometimes a spouse calls to say their loved one is having an affair with a physician.
"We would take the facts of the case. We would gather as many of the facts of the case as we could at that time and depending on the circumstances we would in many cases involve the attorney general's office early on," said Hall.
Hall says Mississippi regulations do not specifically mention sexual misconduct. The behavior falls under the category of unprofessional conduct. Bill 340 raises the act to the level of a crime. A nationwide investigation by the Atlanta Journal Constitution is drawing attention to the issue. The report rated Mississippi 37 out of 100 for categories including discipline and reporting incidents. Hall says when doctors are found guilty of sexual misconduct, the board can revoke their medical license. However, physicians can petition to have them reinstated annually. House Bill 340 makes the revocation permanent. Hall says protecting the physician-patient relationship is important.
"This is something that's hitting every jurisdiction at this point. To my mind it's just nice to see Mississippi out in front of it," said Hall.
House Bill 340 also applies to physician assistants, podiatrists and acupuncturist.