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What Happens to Medical Professionals Accused of Sex Crimes?

Published: Aug 15, 2018 in Sex Crimes

Licensed medical professionals such can be banned from their profession if convicted of sex crimes. Even when their respective licensing boards allow them to keep practicing, they often have to find a new place of employment. Nurses are often at the center of sexual abuse allegations, especially in elderly care facilities. Doctors also face these types of allegations, but generally benefit from a more supportive professional board.

Out of the thousands of doctors practicing in Texas, for example, a very small percentage of them have been disciplined for sexual improprieties. In many cases, the disciplinary action does not go as far as revoking their license. According to an investigation by Texas newspaper My Statesman, three-quarters of doctors disciplined for sexual misconduct between 1996 and 2016 were allowed to retain their license and keep practicing.

Allegations of sexual misconduct can ruin your career. If you’re a medical professional facing accusations of sex crimes, contact a Houston sex crimes lawyer from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett. Call us today at (713) 222-6767, or reach out online to schedule a free and confidential case consultation.

How Does the Texas Medical Board Investigate Sexual Abuse by Doctors?

The Texas Medical Board took issue with the MyStatesman report. Their spokesperson, Jarrett Schneider, said it is “misleading to group all of these cases together regardless of offense.” Indeed, the cases reviewed involved a wide range of conduct, from making unwanted sexual advances to simply dating a patient. But even in serious cases ending in a criminal conviction, some doctors have been allowed to continue their practice.

Patients, but also the police or other physicians, can send complaints about doctors to the Texas Medical Board, which investigates each allegation. The Board only needs to determine whether if there is sufficient enough evidence to prove the complaints are true. In other words, they determine whether it is more likely than not that abuse happened. If the Board decides the sex crimes allegations are baseless, they dismiss the complaint, and no public record of the investigation remains. If they decide that the allegations are true, they notify the doctor, who may contest the findings.

Alternatively, the doctor and the Texas Medical Board may together decide on disciplinary action and the wording of a public notice describing the complaint and the punishment. In determining a doctor’s punishment, the Board will look at the number of alleged violations, their frequency, and the specific types of abuse confirmed by their investigation. Other important issues are the doctor’s character, history of substance abuse, and potential for rehabilitation.

The wording of the public notice of discipline is often vague, making it hard for laypersons to understand what the doctor was disciplined for. The original complaints, however, are available on the websites of the State Office of Administrative Hearings and the Texas Medical Board. The punishment given to doctors found guilty of sex crimes include:

  • A revoked or suspended license
  • The use of a chaperone with young or female patients
  • Substance abuse or psychological counseling
  • Boundaries classes
  • Mentorship by another physician

When the Board and doctor cannot reach an agreement regarding punishment or the wording of the public notice, they must take the case to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. A judge will listen to each side’s arguments and then determine who is right. Both the Board and the doctor can then appeal the administrative judge’s ruling by taking the case to a district court.

A Sex Crimes Conviction Does Not Result in Automatic License Suspension

It is exceedingly rare for a doctor to get disciplined for sexual abuse of a patient after receiving an acquittal or dismissal in their criminal case. Witnesses are often unwilling to go through the trouble of testifying again in a separate legal process. Especially in cases that never go to trial, there may not be much formal evidence of sexual misconduct for the Board to consider. But even in cases where a criminal court determines the doctor guilty of assault, the Board has shown its willingness to let doctors continue to practice.

The relative respectfulness given to doctors is not afforded to other medical professionals such as nurses. The most common punishment when the Texas Board of Nursing makes a finding of sexual misconduct is a license suspension or revocation. Nurses can appeal this finding, but they bear the burden of presenting evidence of their innocence. In general, nurses fare worse than doctors after sexual abuse allegations.

Contact a Sex Crimes Lawyer for Help Today

If you are a medical professional facing sexual misconduct accusations, a Houston sex crimes lawyer can help. An acquittal in your sex crime trial will greatly enhance your ability to keep practicing medicine. If you get convicted, however, you will almost certainly receive disciplinary action. For this reason, you need an aggressive legal professional on your side if you want to stay in the medical profession. To schedule a free, initial case consultation, contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767, or reach out through our online form.