An Ohio pain doctor has been in the news recently because he allegedly assaulted numerous female patients, many of whom have joined lawsuits against him. His medical license was suspended and he may also face criminal charges.
Several commentators have observed that the patients who have come forward are only the tip of the iceberg and that there are potentially many others who have remained silent. This reflects the situation nationally – patients suffer injuries or die because of the misconduct or negligence of medical providers, yet the doctors continue to practice, putting more patients at risk.
That negligent practitioners continue to harm patients is not entirely due to the reluctance of patients to speak up. State medical boards and hospitals fail to report and discipline doctors and other practitioners who are known to harm patients because of their negligence. The result is that thousands of Americans die as a result of medical errors and countless others are harmed.
What does it take for a doctor to be disciplined in Ohio? When the Hudson pain doctor’s license was temporarily suspended last spring, the State Medical Board reported that it had “clear and convincing evidence that his continued practice presents a danger of immediate and serious harm to the public.”
In one lawsuit filed against the doctor, the plaintiffs said that he had “deviated from the standard of care” by touching them sexually without their consent. The suit says that this behavior dates back to at least 2011. The doctor and his attorneys have responded that there is no evidence or fact supporting the women’s allegations. In short, this is a “he said, she said” case.
Nevertheless, the state board suspended the doctor’s medical license indefinitely based on sworn testimony from five of the women who stated that they were assaulted in the office during medical appointments. It said that the doctor was fired from the pain clinic because of allegations that included asking a patient to fondle him, assaulting an invalid woman during a home visit and other reported incidents. Additionally, the women allege that the doctor’s partner knew of the problem, but declined to act on his associate’s misconduct.
The Hudson pain doctor’s case is not the only disciplinary action that the Ohio medical board has taken recently. It permanently revoked the license of an Aurora doctor because of pending criminal charges that included kidnapping, which is a first-degree felony.
These recent licensing actions are for nonmedical behavioral issues that cause harm and fail to meet the standard of care required of a medical professional. What about doctors whose negligence causes injury or death?
Although disciplinary action may seem to require crimes or dramatic examples of negligence, Ohio is actually among the top states in the country when it comes to disciplining doctors, according to a May 2011 story in the Dayton Daily News. However, the State Medical Board is careful to spell out exactly what types of disputes do and do not fall under its jurisdiction: On its website, the State Medical Board of Ohio is quite clear about what it does not address:
- Billing disputes
- Fee issues
- Disability ratings by third parties based on provider evaluations
It does not have jurisdiction over hospitals, urgent care centers or nursing homes. Rather, it handles consumer complaints about the following providers:
- Medical doctors
- Osteopathic physicians
- Podiatric physicians
- Physician assistants
- Anesthesiologist assistants
- Massage therapists
- Cosmetic therapists
- Naprapath practitioners
Consumers may file complaints against these practitioners whom they believe have violated public health and safety standards or have failed to provide care that meets the required standards. The doctors recently censured in Ohio appear to have met these criteria for discipline.