By SHANNAN O’NEIL
Capital News Service
LANSING- Medical professionals may lose their licenses permanently if they sexually assault someone while working, under a bill proposed in the Senate.
Currently, medical professionals convicted of criminal sexual assault can regain their licenses. A case that drew the attention of Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, involved a dentist who started dating a patient and sexually assaulted her numerous times by keeping her in a drug induced state. After a year in prison, he regained his dental license and is still practicing.
“This particular dentist is back practicing with women and children, and I think that it’s outrageous,” Jones said.
Although this could still happen if a new bill is approved, restoring a license would be more difficult because the state licensing board would have to review it.
“People are licensed not only because of their expertise but also that they are deemed worthy of that very, very privileged position of trust and authority,” said Kathy Hagenian, executive policy director of the Michigan Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Under the bill, medical professionals would have to be convicted of sexual crimes that fall under the legal definitions of criminal sexual conduct in the first, second or third degree. The definitions range from types of sexual conduct that include, ages, sexes and types of acts that occur.
Victims of criminal sexual conduct in the first, second or third degree suffer from long-term repercussions, Hagenian said. A victim may not ask for help immediately. When the repercussions continue to affect them, often they call the Michigan Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence for help, she said.
The Coalition hears of many cases where doctors abuse their authority as a health care physician and sexually assault a patient, Hagenian said.
Michigan has one of the least strict laws regarding doctors regaining licenses after committing sexual assault. Illinois recently passed a bill that revokes all licenses of medical professionals convicted of criminal sexual conduct.
The American Civil Liberties Union disagreed with such a harsh standard because it would include those who committed such acts as a child, said Mary Pollock President of the Lansing branch and legislative vice president of the Michigan National Organization for Women.
People that grow up and change should not be punished for getting better, Pollock said.
The Michigan bill started as a zero tolerance bill but was amended to give the board a deciding factor.
The Michigan National Organization for Women still supports the bill after the amendments because it’s going in the right direction, Pollock said.
“You have to allow the boards some leeway,” said Pollock. “If they mess up again, [and reinstate a sex offender’s medical license] I think that’s it for them, they’ve got to be careful.”
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.
By SHANNAN O’NEIL