California doctors see rise in sexual misconduct claims amid 'Me Too' movement

California doctors see rise in sexual misconduct claims amid 'Me Too' movement
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Sexual misconduct allegations against doctors in California have seen a steep rise since the fall of 2017, when the downfall of disgraced former film producer Harvey Weinstein led to an uptick in such reports, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Sexual misconduct claims against Golden State doctors have spiked 62 percent during that period, according to the newspaper’s analysis of California medical board data.

While exact data was not available, Joe Knickrehm, spokesperson for the Federation of State Medical Boards, told the newspaper a similar spike appears to have occurred nationwide.

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Dr. Sheryl Ross, an OB-GYN in Santa Monica, told the Times the "Me Too" movement has made women feel better equipped to speak up if a doctor’s behavior bothers them and to ask for an explanation of the medical purpose of everything they do.

“It’s a look, it’s a touch, it’s having a man rub up against you with an erection — it’s subtle things that I think women didn’t always have an understanding that this is inappropriate,” Ross told the Times. “The days of just sitting back and having the doctor tell you what to do are gone.”

The state medical board received an all-time high of 11,406 overall complaints against physicians and surgeons in the fiscal year ending in June, with sexual misconduct complaints one of the fastest-growing types of allegations, according to the Times. Patients filed 280 such complaints in fiscal 2017-18 compared to 173 the previous year.

Medical board spokesperson Carlos Villatoro told the Times the board “takes allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously” but has not made any changes to its policies on sexual misconduct claims since the uptick began.

Twenty-three California doctors have lost their medical licenses in connection with sexual misconduct claims since mid-2017, according to the newspaper.

Despite this, only 4 percent of complaints translate into sanctions against physicians, according to patient advocate Marian Hollingsworth, whom the Times identifies as a frequent critic of the board.

“The disciplines haven’t been proportional to the number of complaints,” she told the paper.