In Case You Thought a Doctor Who Acknowledges Sleeping with His Patients Might Actually Get Punished
In a few previous round-up posts, I mentioned the case of Scott DesJarlais, anti-abortion Tennessee Republican who, as a physician, had sex with some of his female patients and recorded himself pressuring one to get an abortion. The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners reviewed the complaints against DesJarlais this week.
You’d think such an abuse of the authority of and trust patients have in a physician would warrant serious punishment, right? Like loss of one’s medical license?
Nope. DesJarlais remains a practicing physician. He’s being fined $250 per patient (so $500 fine for the actual offenses), plus any administrative costs associated with the complaint, for a grand total of up to $1500. He keeps his medical license, and simply gets reprimanded.
According to the Tennessean, “The $500 fine is the same amount assessed against another doctor in 2012 for failing to pay her professional privilege taxes. At least two other doctors who admitted sexual misconduct with patients faced harsher penalties.”
The Tennessean also reports that “DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, said the medical ethics board had largely absolved him of complaints.” According to this consent order shared by the Huffington Post*, it is listed as a stipulation of fact that DesJarlais had a sexual relationship with two female patients, and that documentation did not exist to show whether or not he continued serving as their physician after the sex started. I would assume that’s because there’s no documentation of the exact time period of the sex, because if there were there would be records showing whether the women presented to DesJarlais as patients during or after that time.
This is not a process I know much about, and minutes of the meeting are not yet available. Judging from this site, there are meetings as far back as July 2011 that have never had their minutes posted, so who knows when they’ll be up there. I am not in a position to speak about evidence around DesJarlais’s actions or what the board discussed or found. However, I find both the idea of DesJarlais abusing his professional position and the lack of a serious punishment just gross and disturbing. I really hope we hear some more detailed reporting out of the Board soon.