With the news full of stories about sexual misconduct, it’s worth mentioning cases where the perpetrators have hidden in plain sight – with the blessing of the Medical Board of California (MBC) and the state legislature. These are doctors who are allowed to continue practicing even after being found responsible for sexual misconduct.
The Medical Board has disciplined more than 450 doctors in recent years for crossing the line with patients. Surprisingly, MBC investigators are not required to notify law enforcement of a sexual assault complaint. They can quietly investigate a doctor without any warning to the public. Doctors usually remain in practice unfettered throughout the course of the MBC investigation, which usually takes about three years. Some physicians do have their licenses revoked if the accusations are found to be true, but others are discreetly put on probation, ordered to take behavior classes, and have a chaperone in the examination room. AND their patients are never told. The MBC feels that if patients are interested, they will take the time to look up doctors themselves.
What is also surprising is that a license revocation is rarely permanent. Doctors can petition for reinstatement within a few years. At least three doctors found responsible for sexual misconduct have had their licenses reinstated; two of the cases involved underage girls. In one notable case, Dr. Dev Gnanadev, the current MBC president, sat on the panel that reinstated the license of a physician he knew who had assaulted four women, including a minor. Records show that doctor, Hari Narayana Ma Reddy, had also pleaded guilty to battery, a misdemeanor, after being charged with felony sexual battery of the minor. There was never an investigation of Gnanadev sitting on the panel by either the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), which oversees the MBC or the Business and Professions Committee. An investigation is not likely now, due to the fact that the new director of the DCA, Dean Grafilo, used to work for the California Medical Association (CMA), the doctors lobbying association. Gnanadev has donated thousands of dollars to the CMA, and is a former president of the group.
The Medical Board doesn’t bother to follow its own discipline guidelines for sexual misconduct case, which states physicians should get a minimum of 7 years probation, even when the relationship is consensual. Last year, a physician was given just 35 months probation, less than half the recommended time. for unwanted sexual contact with five female patients.
California legislators have been complicit in the protection of these doctors, due in part to strong-arming by the CMA. In 2016, lawmakers failed to pass SB 1033, which would have required doctors on probation for egregious cases to notify their patients. Just last summer, an effort to insert a similar requirement into the SB 798 Sunset Bill failed when lawmakers watered down the reporting requirements so much that only a handful of doctors would qualify. The amendment’s author, Senator Jerry Hill, angrily yanked it out of SB 798 rather than have a weak reporting requirement. The Sunset Bill then passed, allowing the MBC to continue without any changes addressing public safe.
Will there ever be a bill to protect California consumers from doctors who assault their patients? Not if the current mindset persists. Until then, consumers are told to look up their doctors on the Medical Board’s convoluted website before every single appointment. And if there is an issue where the doctor has been improper, the consumer should go directly to the police – not to the Medical Board.
See more of Marian's blog at Marian's Musings.
Marian has co-created a very informative site, 4PatientSafety.org. It contains a National Bad Doctor database and a blog about risky California hospitals.