25 Investigates: Renewed push to close legal loophole shielding doctors from the law

BOSTON — Massachusetts doctors accused of sexually assaulting patients are not facing criminal charges.

For two years, 25 Investigates has followed efforts to close a legal loophole that allows doctors to dodge prosecution. Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan says it's stopping criminal cases dead in their tracks.

"So your trust has already been violated there and then you turn to law enforcement to have somebody held accountable and we can’t help you either," Ryan said.

>> Previous: Doctors accused of sexual assault shielded by legal loophole

The issue centers around the word consent.

Ryan says when doctors abuse patients and pass it off as being medically necessary, their "consent" is obtained through fraud.

"Because they believe it was a means of helping them get better," said Ryan.

Last year, Boston 25 News spoke with a young man who said his doctor, a prominent orthopedic surgeon, made him take off all his clothes to examine his knee. He said the doctor had him lie on his back, stand up, and bend over in the nude.

"Everybody said what happened to you was awful, but we can't do anything about it because of this law," the victim said.

That doctor lost his license, but never faced prosecution.

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"This is a very rare occurrence, but when it does happen it needs to be dealt with. We believe that we have a law that will do that and will be effective," said State Representative Kate Hogan.

State Rep. Kate Hogan is once again sponsoring legislation "criminalizing sexual assault by fraud by a medical professional."

Boston 25 Investigates was there when it was introduced to the judiciary committee earlier this month.

"This bill has the power to change the narrative to about power and consent to say to victims, no more," said Hogan.

>> More: Patients claim loophole allows doctors to get away with misconduct

"When that trust relationship is broken in order to commit an indecent assault and battery or rape that needs to be punished and it needs to be punished seriously," said Sen. Bruce Tarr (R) Gloucester.

Bill supporters pointed to the case of Larry Nassar, now a convicted serial child molester who was the USA Gymnastics National team doctor.

DA Ryan says even a case that big might not have gone forward if it happened in Massachusetts.

"We need to investigate that and hold somebody accountable. And, right now we’re not able to do that," said Ryan.

Seventeen states already made changes to their laws to close this loophole.

Bill sponsors tell Boston 25 News they're confident this year their legislation will continue to gain momentum.


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