Most Texas doctors punished for sexual misconduct keep their licenses


One doctor was punished by the Texas Medical Board amid allegations that he sexually molested three young girls. Another was accused of grabbing women’s breasts and giving them unnecessary vaginal exams while they were under anesthesia. Another doctor, a neurologist, was accused of groping at least a dozen women.

But rather than put them out of business, the medical board allowed all three to keep their licenses.

Between 1999 and 2016, three out of four doctors punished for sexual improprieties with patients were allowed to continue working as physicians, according to an analysis of Texas records by the Austin American-Statesman.

SPECIAL REPORT: Doctors & Sex Abuse

Medical board officials take issue with the Statesman’s findings, saying the list of doctors the newspaper provided to the board includes vastly different allegations that aren’t in the same class.

“We think it is misleading to group all of these cases together regardless of offense,” said spokesman Jarrett Schneider. “There are very different and varying degrees of boundaries issues addressed in this list, ranging from a physician making an inappropriate remark to sexual assault.”

Medical board officials say it’s difficult to take stronger action against doctors who have been acquitted of sexual offenses in court. Witnesses are often unwilling to testify, and a lack of evidence makes it hard to determine whether a violation occurred, Schneider said.

Among the newspaper’s findings:

• Of the approximately 200 doctors disciplined, about 50 lost their licenses. Of the remaining 150 who were allowed to keep working as physicians, about half continue to practice today. Many are no longer working in Texas because they died, retired or are practicing in another state.

• The medical board lets some doctors with criminal records for sexual offenses keep their licenses. A Houston doctor who pleaded guilty to several counts of injury to a child continues to practice, for example.

• Medical board orders can be so vague that the average reader would not have a clear idea of what the doctor did wrong. In one order, the medical board wrote that “some patients expressed discomfort with the examination techniques” used by a pediatrician. But a different state document provided more details: allegations were that doctor of had kissed an 11-year-old on the lips and inappropriately touched the breasts of two other women.

• Boundaries and ethics classes are routinely used to punish doctors who cross the line, but some physicians continue to cross the line.

The records also show that each case is different. Some of the doctors were disciplined for dating patients, for example, while others groped or made unwanted advances on patients in their care.

The number of victims, the frequency of violations, the type of abuse, the rehabilitation potential of each doctor, whether substance abuse was involved: state documents show that all of those factors play into how severely — or lightly — an accused physician is penalized.

Less detailed medical board orders are the result of mediated settlements between the board and physicians, Schneider said. But the details of the dispute can often be found in formal complaints filed with the State Office of Administrative Hearings, which are also posted on the Texas Medical Board’s website, he said.

Meanwhile, boundaries and ethics classes are generally used in cases in which there has been no physical contact with a patient, Schneider said.

No matter the circumstances, the medical board’s president, Dr. Michael Arambula, says the organization is devoted to keeping patients safe and uses all the tools at its disposal to do so.

“The Texas Medical Board takes very seriously its mission of public protection,” he said.

The Statesman’s analysis was done in conjuction with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a fellow Cox Media Group newspaper publishing an extensive investigative report on sexual abuse by doctors across the country. The investigation, “Doctors & Sex Abuse,” found that 3,100 physicians have been publicly disciplined since Jan. 1, 1999 after being accused of sexual behavior with patients.

For this report, the Statesman read more than 200 board orders detailing the accusations against doctors and the punishments they received. The paper also reviewed documents from the State Office of Administrative Hearings, a state agency that conducts hearings in which administrative law judges review the case.

See Sunday’s American-Statesman for the full story.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Health premium increase for retired teachers unlikely in 2019
Health premium increase for retired teachers unlikely in 2019

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas appears unlikely to raise health insurance premiums for retired teachers under the age of 65 next year amid pressure from state officials. A board committee of the pension and health care system on Thursday followed a staff recommendation to keep premiums and deductibles the same. The full board likely will agree...
5,000 Medicare patients shut out from Austin Regional Clinic
5,000 Medicare patients shut out from Austin Regional Clinic

A contract dispute between Austin Regional Clinic and UnitedHealthcare has left an estimated 5,000 Medicare patients without access to their physicians, according to clinic officials. Patients who are enrolled in UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare Advantage plan were notified through mail by the insurance company last week that Austin Regional Clinic...
Suspect in series of sexual assaults convicted in North Austin attack
Suspect in series of sexual assaults convicted in North Austin attack

A Travis County jury on Thursday found a man guilty of sexually assaulting a 56-year-old woman in North Austin two years ago. Nicodemo Coria-Gonzalez, 27, was convicted of aggravated sexual assault after a forensic analyst linked him to the attack through DNA evidence found on the victim. The eight women and four men on the jury deliberated for four...
Bakari Henderson’s accused assailants to go on trial in Greece
Bakari Henderson’s accused assailants to go on trial in Greece

Nine men accused of fatally beating an Austin native while vacationing in Greece are expected to stand trial in that country starting Friday — a proceeding his family hopes will result in life sentences for the assailants. The parents of Bakari Henderson have traveled to the Greek city of Patras for the trial and say they are eager for justice...
Man shot pregnant woman in the face at North Austin hotel, affidavit says
Man shot pregnant woman in the face at North Austin hotel, affidavit says

Austin police have arrested a man accused of shooting a pregnant woman in the face at a North Austin hotel earlier this month, court documents say. Jeremy Petty, 41, has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and is being held at the Travis County Jail on $100,000 bail, records show. Police say Petty shot a woman who is five months...
More Stories