AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Medical boards mum about allegations involving ex-Georgia ob/gyn charged with sex assault

Georgia hospitals offered no public explanations when obstetrician Paul Harnetty apparently lost his privileges in 2010, news reports show. His medical group had nothing to say, either, other than that he was "disassociated" from it, the Macon Telegraph reported at the time.

Mum was the word from the Georgia Composite Medical Board, too. It took no public disciplinary action against Harnetty after about a dozen of his patients from the Warner Robins area complained that he had abandoned them. Some of the women said they didn't find out he couldn't deliver their babies until they showed up at hospitals in labor, the Macon paper reported.

By 2012 Harnetty had moved his practice to Wyoming, where a YouTube Video shows him offering advice on women's health. The medical board there provided no explanations last October, when it accepted the voluntary surrender of his license "in lieu of continuing an investigation against him for wrongful practice."

The nature of the board's investigation finally became public last month, when the ob/gyn was arrested in Minnesota and charged with 12 counts of sexual assault and with drug possession, a Wyoming newspaper reported. The criminal case is pending.

According to news reports, as early as 2015 Wyoming patients had gone to police to report Harnetty for sexual misconduct. Last year, the Wyoming medical board opened an investigation, news reports show. But the board didn't make the complaints public and dropped its probe when the doctor gave up his license. In a national investigation of doctor sex abuse, the AJC found that is a common practice among medical boards.

The AJC also found that many of the nation's medical boards shield doctors accused of sexual abuse.

Read about how well states protect patients from abusive physicians by clicking here: http://doctors.ajc.com/doctors_states_laws/

Final note: The Georgia medical board's website shows that Harnetty's license is now in renewal here. His profile doesn't show any criminal offenses.

He still has an active license with no restrictions in North Dakota, although his license expires there on Friday, that board's website shows. He also is licensed in Indiana, at least through October of this year.




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About the Author

Lois Norder is Senior Editor for Investigations in the newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.