Doctors’ sexual assaults go undisciplined across the country

Katie Earles

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






A heavy door clicks shut under the fluorescent light of the WellStar clinic in Hiram, GA. The cold air is all that is between Patrice Gable, gowned in a blue paper dress, and Dr. William Almon.

At the multiple clinics where Dr. Almon previously worked, he received at least two accusations of sexual assault per location. In 1988, the first to come forward was a patient with suicidal tendencies. Following this, in the early 90s, three women in the prison he worked at reported sexual assault. In 2000, at the WellStar clinic, two women made the same accusation, one 14 years old, the other mentally ill. Not only has he retained his license, but he continues to work in the Metro Atlanta area.

A team of investigative journalists at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution have spent two years tracking down doctors like Dr. Almon and their victims. The reporters  began their investigation after Dr. Nazaire, a doctor at the Georgia Department of Correctional Facilities, was providing inadequate care to his patients, an act that may have cost up to nine lives. Once Danny Robbins, investigative reporter for the AJC, discovered the disciplinary failure to revoke Dr. Naizire’s license, the paper uncovered how often doctors were not disciplined for sexual assault. Robbins and the team of journalists found that this issue is not confined to Georgia; there have been countless cases of sexual assault by doctors in every state across the nation.

“We found that about two-thirds of doctors in Georgia who have been accused of sexual misconduct have been allowed to continue their practice,” Robbins, the initial reporter on the story, said to a Southerner reporter. “After discovering this, we looked to see if Georgia was the exception; it wasn’t.”

In New Mexico, Dr. Twana Sparks, an ear and throat doctor, conducted non-consensual genital examinations while his patients were under anesthesia. In Kentucky, Dr. Ashok Alur told his patient that she had sexy underwear and proceeded to place his hand on her genitals. In Missouri, Dr. Milton Eichmann asked a patient with a history of sexual violence whether she liked being tied up during sex. The AJC found that these cases are among hundreds of a series of events that leave patients violated, confused and ashamed.

“Frequently victims feel ashamed and confused once they’ve been violated by their doctor,” Carrie Teegarden, a long-time investigative journalist for the AJC, said. “It takes a long time for many victims to open up about their experiences, and often it is done privately, making it very difficult to report upon.”

Not only was the number  of abusive doctors surprising to AJC reporters, but the difficulty for patients to receive information on their doctor’s previous complaints was as well.

“Some states don’t even require the information to be provided to the people,” Robbins said. “It’s often difficult for the common person to find out whether their doctor has had a history of sexual misconduct, and even if the individual does try and find out, it usually costs up to $25.”

The reporters looked at over 100,000 records from across the country. To narrow the documents down, AJC data analyst Jeff Ernsthausen had to program a coding system that copies data from medical examination board websites to determine the probability of a doctor having a sexually abusive background.

“In the initial stages of the investigation, I thought that the medical boards would list the reasoning for a doctor’s mandated leave or discipline, but I found that that wasn’t the case,” Ernsthausen said. “I had to program a system that tracked the probability of the doctor having previous sexual relations with patients based off key terms in the legal documents.”

The AJC’s report found that the issue lies in the system. Medical boards determine the outcome in sexual assault cases against doctors. These medical boards usually consist of the doctor’s peers, people who have experienced the  more-than-eight years of training  required to have M.D. after their names.

“It is a scarce occurrence if a doctor is stripped of their license,” Robbins said. “Often, they are placed on temporary probation, mandated to relocate to another area, or the accusation is ignored altogether. Even if their license is taken away, it is common for them to get it back a short time after it was taken in the first place.”

Many drew similarities to the “Spotlight” scandal, in which the Boston Globe exposed thousands of Catholic priests who were molesting children, mostly young boys.

“There are many parallels to this and the priest scandal,” Teegardin said. “People want to prolong the assumption that [doctors and priests] are incapable of doing anything so awful as molesting a child, a mentally-disabled person, or a suicidal woman, but we’ve found that that is simply not the case.”

The AJC found that many times doctors feel as though they are invincible, that after such an extensive education in the medical field that they are too valuable in their job to be fired.

“It doesn’t make no difference whether I am or I ain’t [mentally disabled],” Patrice Gable, victim of sexual assault by Dr. Almon, said to an AJC reporter. “He shouldn’t have done something like that to somebody [sic].”
For more on this issue, visit http://doctors.ajc.com/doctors_sex_abuse/

Print Friendly, PDF & Email