Dinsmore & Shohl LLP
  March 3, 2023 - Louisville, Kentucky

Media Reports Shine Light on Ohio’s Physician “Sexual Misconduct” Law and it is Broader than You May Know
  by Beth Y. Collis, Daniel S. Zinsmaster, Gregory A. Tapocsi, LaTawnda N. Moore

This is the third alert in a series designed to inform physicians and other health care providers of what to do in the event of a State Medical Board of Ohio (“Board”) investigation, how to potentially avoid an investigation and what to expect during a license disciplinary case.

In a recent interview, the Board stated that it hopes the latest media attention on sexual misconduct by physicians will lead to increased awareness of the Board’s role in investigating and responding to such complaints.  In anticipation of a rise in complaints and inquiries from patients and other third parties, the Board plans to hire two more investigators and two more enforcement attorneys. The new additions will be investigating complaints related to physicians and other Board licensees who engage in sexual misconduct with patients.

Most physicians know that sexual assault is morally, ethically, and professionally wrong.  Still, many physicians are astounded to learn of the broad scope and sweeping interpretation of the Board’s rule regarding sexual misconduct.[i]

Sexual misconduct is defined by the Board as “conduct that exploits the licensee-patient relationship in a sexual way, whether verbal or physical, and may include expressions of thoughts, feelings, or gestures that are sexual or that reasonably be construed by a patient as sexual.”  Sexual misconduct includes sexual impropriety, sexual contact or sexual interaction.

The definition of sexual impropriety is quite broad and includes the following behavior:

Intimate contact with former patients can land a physician in the crosshairs of the Board.  Sexual contact that occurs within 90 days after the physician-patient relationship is terminated is still considered sexual misconduct by the Board. 

Most physicians know that an allegation of sexual impropriety or misconduct, even if false or embellished, can easily wreak havoc on a physician’s career.  Sometimes mere allegations can lead to termination of employment, loss of hospital and clinical privileges, regulatory investigations, reports to provider databanks like the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), and/or malpractice claims.

Best practices:

The aforementioned guidelines are useful not only for physicians, but also for any health care providers who perform sensitive examinations.  This would include chiropractic physicians, nurse practitioners, and other allied health professionals.

Need assistance?  Dinsmore can help.  We are counselors and advisors experienced at drafting policies and procedures, conducting staff trainings, and guiding applicants and licensees from pre-investigation through disciplinary hearings and appeals.  Please contact Beth Collis, Dan Zinsmaster, Greg Tapocsi, or LaTawnda Moore for further information.

[i] Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 4731-26.

Read full article at: https://www.dinsmore.com/publications/media-reports-shine-light-on-ohios-physician-sexual-misconduct-law-and-it-is-broader-than-you-may-know/