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The District of Columbia and medical malpractice: Sex abuse

Every state has its own laws and regulations on how doctors can get their licenses. They also have laws about how patients can file complaints and what kind of information can be released about the physicians involved in cases requiring discipline or legal actions.

For instance, did you know that the District of Columbia requires every new applicant who wants to obtain a medical license to go through state and Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal background checks? This helps reduce the number of medical practitioners being licensed who have sorted pasts or a history of violence, sexual abuse or other concerns.

What kind of issues could these doctors have in their pasts that would be bad for patients? Sexual abuse is one of the concerns. Patients are, in many cases, vulnerable, and doctors go into the profession knowing that it's unprofessional to have a relationship with a patient. The courts have decided in the past that having an improper relationship with a patient, whether willing or not, is unacceptable.

Preying on vulnerable patients is a serious concern, and if you think you've been violated by a medical professional, you do need to report that to your attorney or with the Department of Health. It's important to discuss the potential for these improper relationships and the abuse they can cause, because not all patients get to have a voice. When you research your doctor, know that not all records will have information on sexual abuse allegations. If the issue was dealt with privately by the licensing or disciplinary boards, the information may not be there at all.

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "District of Columbia," accessed July 19, 2016

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