Doctor sexual misconduct: numbers don’t tell the story

After a year of work, the AJC documented 3,100 doctors who had engaged in some form of sexual misconduct since 1999. Of those cases, 2,400 involved sexual misconduct with patients. That’s more than any of us expected, but a small percentage of doctors overall. More alarming than the number, though, is our discovery that most of the problem is well hidden. We explain here why sexual abuse of patients is hard to uncover.

Doctors_lead_logoExperts told us there’s no good data on physician sexual abuse. Surveys and guesstimates put the percentage as 6% or more of physicians. In comparison, the most recent estimate of Catholic clerics accused of sexually abusing minors from 1950 through June 30, 2015 was 5.6%.

There’s one national source that could provide better numbers: The National Practitioner Data Bank. Medical authorities and hospitals are supposed to report doctors who are disciplined for various violations, including sexual abuse. While the public can’t see the names of doctors, we can see the nature of the violations. But even some of the nation’s most notorious sexual predator doctors – like pediatrician Earl Bradley, who abused hundreds of children – weren’t classified for sexual misconduct. And that’s only one flaw of the national tracking system.

Read the entire AJC series at






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