AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Doctor sex abuse investigation spurs call for change

More than 17,000 people have signed a petition calling for the permanent revocation of medical licenses of physicians disciplined for sexual misconduct.

College student Valerie Janovic created the petition in response to a national investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that revealed a widespread pattern of doctors being accused of sexual misconduct, often with limited repercussions.

“It really shocked me,” Janovic said.  “I wanted it to get attention, I wanted to bring attention to this issue.”

Janovic created the petition through her internship with Care2, an online network for activists to start and support petitions and campaigns. Being a student activist and a woman, Janovic saw Care2 and the petition as a chance to address an issue that she said is real to her and affects her personally.

“I want there to be legal repercussions,” she said. “That’s the bare minimum we can do in society.”

Among others who responded to the AJC investigation was Spelman College student Venkayla Haynes, a committee member on Its On Us, a White House partnered initiative geared toward combating sexual assault on college campuses. She described the project as eye-opening.

“It’s an abuse of power,” said Haynes. "I don't think you should be able to keep your license at all."

She said she was signing the petition as a survivor of sexual assault and said she admired Janovic for seeking change.

“There are people who voice their opinion on social media, but not many people take action,” Haynes said.

The petition asserts the following:

“Half of the doctors disciplined for sex crimes are still licensed to practice medicine. Doctors shouldn't get special treatment. If they are sanctioned for a sex crime, they should be placed on the registry and not be allowed to work with sensitive populations.”

Janovic said that case that compelled her to go forward with the petition was one highlighted by ABC News involving a California physician, David Mata.

His medical license was revoked in 2011 following  accusations of more than 100 counts of sexual misconduct and his guilty plea to six felonies. However, he was still deemed eligible to apply for reinstatement three years after pleading guilty.

"If you abuse your patients you shouldn’t be getting a second chance,” Janovic said.

“You can’t even let your guard down in a doctor’s office,” she said. “There should be some places that are sacred.”

Janovic's original goal for the petition was 17,000 signatures. Having topped that, she hopes it will be enough to appeal to Congress to enact a law requiring revocation.

You can read the petition by clicking here. Read the AJC investigation by clicking here.

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