Self-governance requires more of our nation’s doctors

Open-gown-new-redo-lead

If you haven’t taken the time to read the AJC’s investigation of sexual abuse by doctors across the country, you owe it to yourself — and your loved ones — to do it.

I confess I let the first round of stories in July (more are planned well into the fall) pile up before I took the time to read through them. To call the reporting in-depth, and the revelations eye-opening and anger-inducing, is an understatement.

The headline finding: More than 2,400 doctors nationwide have been disciplined after being accused of sexual misconduct against patients during the 16-year period the AJC examined. That figure is certainly understated because of the opaque way in which state medical regulators handle and report such cases.

But that’s not the worst of it. Half of those abusive doctors identified by the AJC are still licensed to practice medicine. That includes two-thirds of those sanctioned for such violations in Georgia.

Many of them are serial abusers. Often, the extent of their predatory behavior isn’t known until years later. And the problem is compounded by the fact that only 11 states mandate that medical authorities notify law enforcement or prosecutors about potential sexual crimes against adults.

There are personal failings here — not just the obvious ones by the doctors themselves, but by those who had responsibility for guarding against such behavior and didn’t — as well as institutional ones.

One thing our Founders recognized was the need to prevent justice from being dependent on the goodness of man. Our system of checks and balances was designed to prevent human frailty from eroding our ordered liberty. Any element of public governance that doesn’t include similar safeguards, such as medical boards that aren’t required to forward criminal complaints to the criminal-justice system, fails their test.

But industries such as the medical profession are institutions unto themselves, and self-governance requires us, well, to govern ourselves, even when the safeguards are insufficient. To do what’s right even when no one’s looking.

While a law to require reporting of such accusations would be a good idea, it shouldn’t take a law. That should be a priority of the medical community itself.

An example can be found in another community with which I have a lot of familiarity: the Boy Scouts.

The revelations of abuse by adult leaders over the years have been painful for any of us who love Scouting and benefited from it. But none of us who were Scouts, or are now Scout leaders, can argue it was better not to know, or to try to handle matters in-house.

The sunlight cast on those instances of abuse has changed the culture. I see the difference from when I was a youth myself, working at summer camp and generally on a higher level than the average Boy Scout, to now. Training to know all the situations to avoid, and how to recognize when others might be doing something wrong, is not just more prevalent. It’s understood by those leaders I know to be a good and meaningful thing, not just a bothersome box to check.

That culture change took a long time and a lot of work. And there’s no way, with so many people involved, that it will eliminate every future problem. But it will prevent more than before.

It’s the kind of prescription the medical profession ought to try.

Reader Comments 0

12 comments
xxxzzz
xxxzzz

And the medical professions unwillingness to truly police itself is another reason medical costs are so high.  Bad doctors continue to practice.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

While not my favorite topic here for comment it none the less is something far more substantive than next door. There, the host continues his inane bluster against anything or anyone who differs with his far-left ideology.

Dateline 2016
Dateline 2016

Self Governance is non-governance. It doesn't work with priests, police, lawyers, judges, or any other profession where it's members must act as policemen over friends and coworkers.  It also doesn't work well for the states or countries.  Everyone answers to a higher authority, whether it be the Feds or United Nations.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Self Governance didn't work for the priest, because your "higher authority", i.e., the church power structure covered it up, but it works well in the other occupations where there is a culture of self governance and honor.  The police have internal affairs officers, and the lawyers and courts police themselves as well.  The medical profession needs to step forward with some investigative authority like an internal affairs bureau.


The last thing we need is more regulations and more Government. 

Starik
Starik

@RafeHollister Unfortunately, most internal affairs offices are a joke. The lawyers have the bar association, and the courts have the JQC... both are flawed, but not as ridiculously bad as most police internal affairs offices.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

@Dateline 2016  Self-governance also does not work with the mainstream media.

It seems like almost every outlet, including the ajc, has chosen sides in the culture wars and they feel unrestrained when it comes to injecting their ideological viewpoints into their "news" reporting. 

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@Starik @RafeHollister CPA boards generally work well and are not as tolerant of those who violate the rules.  But they are an exception.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

Unfortunately, there are always bad apples in any circumstance where there are those who have a degree of authority and or influence over those who're the most vulnerable. It could be in academia, within the workplace, government or even within the church environment. In this case it's within the medical provider field. As Kyle, points out education and in particular educating children as to how to recognize improper behaviors beforehand and how to report it is key to prevention. I agree that it is indeed sad when those who take advantage of the vulnerable and then go unpunished.

MarkVV
MarkVV

The inaction of the medical authorities regarding the widespread sexual misconduct of physicians is an outrage. There will be cases where the presumption of innocence must be exercised, but there were many reported cases where there was no doubt about the guilt. AJC has done a great public service to uncover and report this scandal.

Starik
Starik

@MarkVV It's time to move on to something else. Teachers are a greater problem than doctors.  Doctors are well-educated and have to work hard for their license.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Starik @MarkVV  "Doctors are well-educated and have to work hard for their license. "

That really has nothing to do with the issue. You cannot overlook misconduct  because the perpetrator is well-educated and worked hard for license.

Starik
Starik

@MarkVV @Starik Doctors, most of them, have a purpose.  They are necessary.  In a rural area there may be only one, and nationwide there's a shortage.  We need to keep them if they're competent.