#MeToo hasn’t stripped doctors’ licenses despite sex abuse

While allegations of rape, sexual assault and misconduct have ended the careers of Hollywood power brokers and politicians, the healthcare industry appears to be “often more forgiving,” according to an Associated Press (AP) investigation of physicians accused of abuse.

The high-profile case of former U.S. Olympic gymnastics physician Larry Nassar aside, the AP found that in the era of #MeToo, many physicians accused of sexual misconduct never had their license reviewed. Two-thirds of those sanctioned by employers or who paid a settlement for sexual misconduct allegations never faced discipline from state’s medical boards.

“They could tell the public that they will investigate every single case. There are many things that can be done, even just having a policy of zero tolerance,” said Azza Abbudagga, a health services researcher with the advocacy organization Public Citizen. “If every single hospital would just take a stand and issue a statement saying clearly that any sexual misconduct with patients won’t be tolerated and that there will be consequences including permanently revoking the medical license of every doctor found guilty.”

In one of the more egregious examples of alleged misconduct documented by the AP, 62-year-old Robert Rook, MD, a family medicine physician in Conway, Arkansas, had been facing multiple criminal charges for raping patients during pelvic exams and physicals. Those have since been downgraded to more than 20 counts of sexual assault, so the Arkansas Medical Board voted to reinstate his medical license and continue practicing under a chaperone as he awaits trial later this year.

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