AUGUSTA – Rep. David Sawicki (R) of Auburn introduced a bill aimed at protecting patients from sexual exploitation at the hands of a physician.
Under the gross sexual assault statutes of the State of Maine, this behavior is currently a Class C crime for a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker to have sex with their patients. There is no current Maine statute that protects patients from other predatory health professionals. LD 792 An Act To Protect Patients from Sexual Exploitation expands the current law to include physicians, osteopathic physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists, physician assistants and nurses when it comes to this behavior.
“This bill is about protecting patients here in Maine,” Rep. Sawicki said. “Based on the severe harm that this kind of exploitative behavior causes other states have already recognized the need for criminal sanctions. A few of those include New Hampshire, Texas, Idaho, and Minnesota. Recent legislation in Minnesota mandates the revocation of a physician’s license for felony level sexual misconduct. I’m hoping we follow their lead.”
The Minnesota Board of Medical Practice retained the services of a group of nationally recognized experts on the topic of sexual misconduct by health professionals. In the resulting report they state: “the consultation group felt that it would be important to include that physician-patient sex is always the physician’s ‘fault’, and responsibility.”
The Minnesota report also states: “It is now well established that a sexual relationship between physician and patient is almost always damaging to the patient. The damage includes, but is not limited to, sexual dysfunction, anxiety disorders, depression, increased risk of suicide and dissociative disorders.” Other studies have shown that the suicide rate for sexually exploited patients is as high as 14%. In a national survey, 9% of physicians admitted to sexual contact.
The bill had a public hearing before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee this week and will be scheduled for a work session in the coming weeks where legislators will take their first votes.