AP investigation: Doctors keep licenses despite sex abuse

Business

WASHINGTON — The first time that Dr. Anthony Bianchi came onto a patient, California’s medical board alleged, the gynecologist placed a chair against the exam room door, put his fingers into the woman’s vagina and exposed his erect penis.

The second time, the board claimed, he told a patient that he couldn’t stop staring at her breasts and recounted a dream in which he performed oral sex on her in the office.

The third time, the board charged, he told a pregnant patient suffering from vaginal bleeding that she shouldn’t shave her pubic hair before her next visit, as he was getting too excited.

These episodes led to disciplinary actions by the state’s medical board in 2012 and in 2016. Bianchi agreed not contest the charges, and he held onto his medical license. Under a settlement with California’s medical board, he agreed to seek therapy and refrain from treating women during five years of probation.

Bianchi did not respond to telephone messages from The Associated Press left for him at the workers’ compensation clinic in Fresno, California, where he now evaluates occupational health claims.

In recent months, Hollywood moguls, elite journalists and top politicians have been pushed out of their jobs or resigned their posts in the wake allegations of sexual misconduct. In contrast, the world of medicine is often more forgiving, according to an AP investigation.

When the doctors are disciplined, the punishment often consists of a short suspension paired with mandatory therapy that treats sexually abusive behavior as a symptom of an illness or addiction, the AP found.

Decades of complaints that the physician disciplinary system is too lenient on sex-abusing doctors have produced little change in the practices of state medical boards. And the #MeToo campaign and the rapid push in recent months to increase accountability for sexual misconduct in American workplaces do not appear to have sparked a movement toward changing how medical boards deal with physicians who act out sexually against patients or staffers.

The sentencing of Larry Nassar, a former doctor for the U.S. Olympic gymnastics program convicted of abusing more than 150 women and girls, has put a high-profile case of physician misconduct in the spotlight. But across the country, most doctors accused of sexual misconduct avoid a medical license review entirely. A study last year found that two-thirds of doctors who were sanctioned by their employers or paid a settlement as the result of sex misconduct claims never faced medical board discipline.

“There’s been a failure of the medical community to take a stand against the issue,” said Azza Abbudagga, a health services researcher with nonprofit advocacy organization Public Citizen.

She published a report recently detailing sexual misconduct among physicians. Its findings showed that of the 253 doctors reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank for having been sanctioned by their respective hospitals or health care organizations for sexual misconduct, or paid a settlement that stemmed from such an allegation, 170 of them were not disciplined by state medical boards, even though all boards have access to the reports filed with the …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News

      

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