- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

More than 2,400 doctors nationwide have been sanctioned for sexual misconduct involving patients between 1999 and 2015, yet over half still maintain active medical licenses, according to a new investigation.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday said it became aware of the staggering statistic after one of its reporters was examining state medical records. Upon learning that several doctors maintained medical licenses in light of being accused of sexual misconduct, the newspaper launched a coast-to-coast investigation to examine if similar trends exists elsewhere in the country.

After reviewing more than 100,000 public disciplinary documents, the AJC determined more than 3,100 doctors have been sanctioned during a 16-year span for sexual misconduct, including 2,400 for instances involving patients. Of those, over half of the sanctioned doctors — more than 1,200 of them across the country — held on to their medical licenses after being punished.

“We found a culture of secrecy,” investigative journalist Carrie Teegardin, a reporter for the paper, told ABC News.

“It’s treated with a sort of secrecy that we don’t see in other arenas when we’re talking about allegations this serious,” she added. “It’s still swept under the rug in so many cases.”

Indeed, the newspaper said this alleged culture of secrecy emerged despite public probes being waged during the last couple decades aimed at investigating similar instances within the military, Boy Scouts and Catholic Church.

“In each case, institutions and professions responded to create strict accountability and restore public trust,” the newspaper said Tuesday. “But one profession has escaped broad scrutiny.”

“One thing we found that was shocking to us is some of these doctors are the most prolific sex offenders in the country, with hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of victims,” Ms. Teegardin told ABC News.

Despite reviewing tens of thousands of disciplinary documents, however, the newspaper believes that their investigation has only exposed the tip of the iceberg.

“These cases appear to represent a fraction of incidents of sexual abuse,” AJC Editor Kevin Riley said in a statement. “Many cases remain obscured because state boards and hospitals handle many sexual misconduct cases in secret, and some public orders are so vaguely worded that patients would not know that a sexual offense occurred.”

“What’s more, the profession and its national lobby — the American Medical Association — have exercised clout to ensure the issue stays out of the public eye,” Mr. Riley added.

The AMA declined to comment when reached by ABC News this week, but provided a copy of its ethical guidelines, the network reported Wednesday.

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