Evaluation of Sexual Misconduct Complaints: The Oregon Board of Medical Examiners, 1991 to 1995

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1997 Jun;176(6):1340-6; discussion 1346-8. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9378(97)70355-7.


Objective: In 1991 the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners initiated a separate category for the complaint of sexual misconduct. Investigated complaints of sexual misconduct brought to the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners were analyzed for the years 1991 to 1995 to serve as a baseline. Comparison was made to the Federation of State Medical Boards sexual misconduct data for 1991 and 1992.

Study design: One hundred complaints brought against 80 licensees were evaluated by practitioner's degree, age group, sex, specialty, and disposition of complaints for the years 1991 to 1995. The allegations were classified into behavior categories of sexual impropriety, sexual transgression, and sexual violations.

Results: Sexual misconduct was the allegation in 5.9% of the complaints investigated for the study period. Oregon had more sexual misconduct complaints than the average reported to the Federation of State Medical Boards for the years 1991 and 1992. Most (72%) complaints came from the patients or their families. Two female physicians (2.4%) had sexual boundary complaints. Sexual misconduct complaints increased by a risk ratio of 1.44 with advancing age by decades. Allegations classified into behavior categories according to severity revealed 39% sexual impropriety, 31% sexual transgression, and 30% sexual violation. Reportable disciplinary actions occurred only with multiple allegations of sexual impropriety (6.5%) and for sexual transgression (27%) whereas sexual violation allegations often had one complainant but there were 54% reportable disciplinary actions. Family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, and psychiatry had the highest incidence of sexual misconduct complaints whereas psychiatry and obstetrics and gynecology had the highest incidence of reportable disciplinary actions. Twenty-five percent of the closed cases resulted in reportable disciplinary actions. This analysis is discussed in relationship to legal and ethical issues and the goal of zero tolerance.

Conclusions: Oregon has a higher percentage of sexual misconduct complaints than the average for 42 states reporting to the Federation of State Medical Boards for the years 1991 and 1992. Analysis of the Oregon Board's experience for the study years will provide a baseline for future evaluation and as an educational resource for the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners and professional and specialty societies. Ethical standards, the reporting and investigative processes, and the legal framework are in place and lessen the incidence of sexual misconduct and work toward zero tolerance.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Coroners and Medical Examiners / organization & administration
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Female
  • Government Regulation
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Licensure, Medical*
  • Male
  • Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Oregon / epidemiology
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians / standards*
  • Professional Misconduct*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sexual Harassment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Specialization