We healthcare professionals are a bit safer from the long arm of the law than other citizens. If a client believes we have performed wrongly in our job duties, the issue can go to a professional license board, rather than being a matter of criminal or civil court.
Ideally, this works well. It would be a challenge for criminal law -- judges with warrants, law officers with probable cause, prosecutors, juries -- to determine whether various situations met the criteria of a clear crime or not. It would be a challenge for civil courts to make judgments abt what is in bounds or out of bounds for practice - say, billing, or malpractive, or "dual relationships."
So, the state licensing board can set standards for getting licensed, and for monitoring ongoing stuff such as license renewal. They also can -- and usually are -- a substitute system for grievances. A board generally has a committee to hold hearings in response to filed reports of misbehavior. The board is usually composed of volunteer professionals in the same profession. So, the board members should be able to judge whether some behavior is fine or not, and what a fitting punishment might be.
The board has punishments limited to its domain: revoking license, requiring specific profesional education, and other license-related things. The board will not give prison time, or a civil dollar amount settlement.
This system has its strengths, and its criticisms. One criticism is that the boards give "hand-slaps," in a colleague-buddy way. Kind of like the "code of blue."
Arizona has a recent news story where this profesionnal review system failed big time.
Allan Aven, a 70-year-old physician, apparently worked a depressed female married client into a sexual relationship, kept her in line by making her feel bad about herself, then dumped her.
Has his license been revoked? No. It has been suspended. Maybe he will learn his lesson.
Let's see. I have this data base that helps me explore disciplinary records of physicians. I am sure the Az Board used this to decide Doc Aven's punishment. My data source is called "Google."
This guy had gotten in trouble for the same thing in Illinois a year ago, and the woman had gotten suicidal.
The Illinois story reports he had done this before, back in 2001, and the woman had gotten suicidal, and did end up killing herself.
Now, based on the 2001 suicide, and regular training, certainly this doc, of any docs, would recognize the problems with this type of relationship with this type of vulnerable client. Well, a newspaper reporter asked him:
"When a Tribune reporter asked whether having sex with the patient was wrong, he said: 'We were both in unpleasant marriages. Does that give you a right to have sex? People do it all the time. Clinton did it. Kennedy did it. I guess I'm in good company.' "
Hardly a comparison. This doc used his knowledge of the person's problems, and advice-giving credibility, and unique one-to-one office visit-nature of med practice to work on these women.
A Tucson discussion board has some comments...
The guy is trouble. But the sad thing is that this manipulator was known to medical boards. And may have / should have been known to the Arizona board when they threw the book at him - a flimsy paperback book of license suspencion. A more fitting response might be to pull his license, and phrase the judgment (available online - skeletal/skimpy) to include language that would make a civil suit very obvious.