Our top Chicago medical malpractice attorneys have recently written on the problem of physician sexual abuse in Illinois. As the law presently stands, physicians in our state who are convicted of sexual abuse of patients are not subject to any automatic discipline by the state government – indeed, they do not even automatically have their medical license revoked or even suspended. Instead, the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation retains complete discretion over to what extent – or even whether – sex-offending doctors should be punished.
This would be fine, of course, if the state regulators were exercising their authority to protect patients. But instead, many sex-offender physicians receive nothing more than a slap on the wrist: no revocation or suspension of license. Indeed, a recent news report highlighted one case in which a doctor who was convicted of sexually abusing a patient received no punishment whatsoever.
Moreover, as our personal injury lawyers have recently noted, the state regulators have recently removed information about physicians’ criminal records (including sexual abuse) from publicly-available physician records in the state of Illinois. Thus, not only are these most dangerous of doctors still being permitted to practice, but patients are being denied the reasonable opportunity to learn whether their doctors are predators of whom they should be afraid.
This topic has been brought to the public’s attention through a recent series by the Chicago Tribune. Now, as a result of this press, our state’s lawmakers have at last been shamed into taking action on this important issue of patient safety. Two competing bills have been advanced in the state legislature designed to ensure that physicians convicted of sexual abuse are no longer a threat to patients.
Unfortunately, the first of these bills to be considered is by far the weaker of the set. Simply because it has been advanced first, many lawmakers have lined up in support of this wholly inadequate proposed legislation, apparently unaware that a far more suitable bill is also pending. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys urge our state’s lawmakers to forgo the weaker bill, and enact legislation that will actually protect the Illinois public.
The first bill, advanced by state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, does little to correct the current problems in our state. Under this law the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation would still retain discretion over any punishments handed out – even when a doctor has been convicted of sexual misconduct in a criminal court. Although the proposed penalties for offending doctors – if the department determines that punishment is appropriate – are harsher, no punishment at all is still an option.
This bill, although a slight improvement, is thus completely inadequate. Leaving the same regulators who have declined to punish sex offending doctors in the past in charge of determining future punishments leaves Illinois patients still without protection from predatory physicians.
Unsurprisingly, the inadequate Dillard bill was drafted “with the help of” the state’s lobbying organization for doctors, the Illinois State Medical Society. In short, physicians’ own special interests have prevailed in the Dillard bill, ensuring that doctors will continue to operate without appropriate oversight and patients will continue without protection.
Dillard’s bill, however, contains one highly favorable provision: a physician charged with, but not yet convicted of, sexual assault or battery on a patient would be required to practice under the supervision of a chaperone while the criminal case is pending. Our experienced medical malpractice lawyers hope that whatever version of the bill becomes law contains this provision.
The second bill, advanced by Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, is far more appropriate. That legislation is more in line with what other, more responsible states (such as California and Minnesota, for example) have enacted. Under this proposed law, physicians who are convicted of sexual assault or battery of a patient would have their medical license automatically revoked: no ifs, ands, or buts. Our medical malpractice lawyers heartily endorse the Franks bill. It is clear that a physician convicted of the sexual abuse of a patient is, by definition, unfit to practice medicine.
Unfortunately, the Dillard bill was advanced first. It has now passed the State Senate, and will be sent to the House for consideration. The Franks bill, meanwhile, has not yet come up for a vote. We urge our state’s lawmakers, in both chambers of the state legislature, to avoid simply passing the first legislation to address this issue. Instead, the two chambers should work together to ensure that the best bill – a tough measure that will truly protect Illinois patients – becomes the law of our state.
For a free consultation with an experienced injury and wrongful death lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.