State medical board failed to protect Ohioans from doctors' sexual misconduct

Note: This story contains graphic descriptions of reported sexual abuse that may be offensive to some readers or painful to survivors.

A doctor called his patients' breasts "the girls," cut off their bras with a knife and once even pushed a cart in front of a door to stop a nurse from entering the exam room.

When a woman sought help for a simple earache, her doctor insisted on giving her a massage, pinned her hands behind her back, then rubbed his erect penis against her for at least 10 minutes.

A respected, small-town doctor hired teenage patients to do odd jobs around his home and office, before ultimately hooking the boys on drugs and sexually assaulting them for years.

Another doctor inserted a needle into his patient's neck and waited until she was almost paralyzed before sticking his tongue down her throat.

Preying On Patients:'Nobody cares': Columbus-area man took his own life after accusing doctor of sexual abuse

The pain and torment of those patients represent just a fraction of the sexual misconduct accusations made against Ohio doctors for more than 40 years.

Dr. Richard Strauss has been accused of sexually abusing hundreds of former students while he worked for Ohio State University from 1978 to 1998. This photo was included with his 1978 application to Ohio State's medical staff.


The above misconduct all occurred years before the public would learn the State Medical Board of Ohio ignored a complaint about Dr. Richard Strauss, who was later accused of sexually abusing at least 177 former students and athletes at Ohio State University.

But Strauss was not an outlier.

Dozens of little-known, predatory physicians came before him and hundreds followed across Ohio.

A Dispatch investigation found the medical board failed to protect Ohioans from serial sexual abusers and harassers despite a clear, decades-long pattern of doctors preying on patients.

A review of tens of thousands of board disciplinary records spanning 42 years uncovered a broad range of sexual misconduct allegations.

Records show there were doctors who raped and fondled patients while they were under anesthesia.

Several physicians pestered patients during exams to go on dates with them and many made sexually suggestive comments on their body parts and looks in general. Multiple doctors masturbated in front of those they were treating and more than one used ungloved, bare hands to conduct genital exams under false pretenses, board records show.

The doctors often refused requests for chaperones and abused or harassed their patients behind closed or locked doors, where no one could see what was happening. Their victims included children and vulnerable adults seeking medical care.

Since 1980, at least 256 Ohio doctors have been disciplined by the medical board for sexual misconduct — the umbrella term the board uses to describe both sexual abuse and harassment. Of those doctors, 199 raped, assaulted, kissed, fondled, seduced, harassed or had sex with at least 449 patients, The Dispatch uncovered.


The remaining 57 physicians were disciplined for sexual misconduct with colleagues or people outside of their practices including children at a slumber party, family members, acquaintances and prostitutes.

At least 56 doctors disciplined for sexual misconduct are still practicing in Ohio.

Those figures from the newspaper's investigation don't include an unknown number of cases that were never reported to the board or were never investigated. (It's estimated that just 38% of child victims of sexual abuse come forward, according to the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence.)

The Dispatch's findings prove the medical board hasn't done enough to safeguard patients from dangerous doctors, said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who worked with the medical board as state attorney general when the Strauss scandal came to light.

A working group DeWine convened recommended sweeping changes be made to the medical board to prevent abuse like Strauss' from again going unchecked. But the volume of victims and the toll of abuse at the hands of Ohio doctors wasn't known until The Dispatch reviewed more than four decades of board records.

“Those numbers should shock everyone,” DeWine said. “It’s clear that in the past ... the culture at the medical board was a very passive culture in regard to sexual abuse of patients and the doctors who were engaged in sexual (misconduct)."


The consequences of inaction

When the woman tried to pull away from her doctor, he stopped her.

She had trusted Dr. Gerald Lane to treat her earache. Instead, she told the board that the person she hoped would heal her sexually assaulted her.

Lane told the woman he noticed some tension in her neck and ordered her to cup her hands behind her back so he could massage it away. When the woman denied any discomfort, Lane insisted.

With the woman’s hands pinned at her back, Lane massaged her neck and rubbed his erect penis against her hands, the woman, known as Patient 1, told the state medical board.

“I was scared, and I didn’t know if I should jump off the table,” the woman told the board. “I didn’t want to startle him to where maybe something else may have happened.”


The woman was frozen with fear for the next 10 to 15 minutes while Lane continued rubbing his penis against her, according to medical board records.

It was August 2001 and over the next 11 months, Lane was similarly accused of abusing at least two more women. The three women all reported the Columbus doctor to the medical board in 2002.

Following an investigation and with the powers granted to them under Ohio law, board members could have voted to cite Lane and make public the abuse allegations from the three women. Ohioans looking for a doctor could have found Lane's name in public medical board meeting records or later searched for it in a statewide database that would have stated he was under investigation.

But that didn’t happen.

Two years passed. Then, in May 2004, Lane was accused of abuse by a fourth woman who was seeking treatment for a headache and stomach pain. She later told the board she didn’t at first report Lane, fearing that she wouldn’t be believed and nothing would be done.

Three more years went by before the board in December 2007 cited Lane for the original three sexual assaults. It would be another 15 months before the board revoked his medical license in March 2009.

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Lane declined to comment when reached by The Dispatch. In 2008, Lane claimed that the accusations couldn't have occurred because he suffered from a heart condition that may have caused erectile dysfunction and because the exam table in his office was the wrong height.

The medical board, which is responsible for holding physicians like Lane accountable, investigates and disciplines doctors while also issuing and keeping track of licenses for nearly 96,000 medical professionals including 54,000 licensed doctors and 6,313 doctors in training in Ohio.

While the medical board doesn't comment on specific cases such as Lane's, board leaders told The Dispatch they've been working to fix many of the shortcomings that allowed some doctors to go unpunished for so long. New protocols lay out a detailed guide for board workers to ensure victims are interviewed, that law enforcement is notified and that a patient advocate is involved every step of the way, said Executive Director Stephanie Loucka, who took over the medical board in late 2019.


The board updated its protocol again in September, two years after the previous update and following a July interview with Dispatch reporters. A new transparency webpage that details the type and number of complaints made each year was also launched as the board continues with various efforts to improve the way it handles sexual misconduct.

The board, Loucka said, has learned from its mistakes and she said it's "a new day at the medical board."

"(We're) really making sure that we're hitting all of the necessary steps along the way in a sexual misconduct case," Loucka said. "So that when we get to the end ... whether we're going forward or whether we have to close (it), we know everything that we need to have documented is documented."

'Dropped or never investigated'

The medical board has for years focused on protecting accused physicians rather than seeking justice for patients, three former employees with a combined 20 years of experience told The Dispatch.

They asked not to be identified for fear of retribution by board officials.

The board employs 26 investigators who look into sexual misconduct, complaints of malpractice and prescribing violations, among a variety of other issues.

Although sexual misconduct investigations typically require weeks or months of time, the three former employees said investigators were consistently told to clear cases quickly. They typically juggled 10 to 15 cases at a time that varied in complexity and involved any number of issues ranging from sexual misconduct and drug abuse to minor paperwork problems.

While many medical board investigators have come from law enforcement, others did not and had little to no formal investigative training, the former employees told The Dispatch.

Aug 10, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, United States; The state medical board meets for its regular monthly meeting.


The medical board received 4,667 complaints covering a variety of issues against medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic medicine, and doctors of podiatry in fiscal year 2022.

A synopsis of allegations against a doctor is made public when the medical board votes to cite one, schedules a hearing and issues a notice to a doctor. But not every allegation makes it to the public.

The medical board didn't always investigate every sexual misconduct complaint it received, meaning the number of accusations against a doctor whose misdeeds were disclosed to the public may have been misleading, former employees said.

While former employees said the board was often reluctant to investigate sexual misconduct, there are a few situations that could outright prevent board action or an investigation. Those scenarios include but are not limited to the death of an accused physician or an uncooperative victim.

“The 250-figure found (by The Dispatch) may shock the public but trust me that is way, way low,” said one former investigator. “The board was scared to push those sexual misconduct cases. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of these serious allegations that were dropped or never investigated over the years.”


The medical board's Loucka said she was concerned to hear former board employees thought investigations weren’t handled properly. She encouraged them to reach out if they’re aware of any case that should be re-examined.

But within the past 10 years the board implemented policies that made it more difficult for sexual misconduct cases to be investigated.

One policy stated that investigators could drop a case if they felt unsafe pursuing it. Another required victims to meet an investigator at a neutral or public location instead of talking about what happened in the comfort of their homes.

“It was a problem for victims. Nobody wants to talk about sexual assault at a Panera Bread,” a former board employee said. “The investigators were entirely justified in saying they felt they were hamstrung by the policy.”

Discipline for doctors has varied widely over the years.

Of the 256 doctors a Dispatch analysis found, 120 had their licenses permanently revoked and 95 faced suspensions for various amounts of time. There were at least 29 instances where doctors who had their licenses revoked or suspended were issued a “stay” that shortened the period they were prohibited from practicing.

At least 73 doctors entered into a "consent agreement" with the board, which allows them to negotiate the terms of their discipline and the details of accusations that are made public.

“I left because I wasn’t doing justice by anyone,” said a former investigator. “It was clear to me the board was protecting their own so I had to get out. ... I couldn’t look myself in the mirror anymore knowing we weren’t doing what we should have been doing to protect the public.”

More than Strauss

The Dispatch’s findings show that Strauss, who died by suicide in 2005, was not alone in his abuse of patients.

As an Ohio State student, Steve Snyder-Hill went to see Strauss in the mid-1990s for a lump on his chest and received an unnecessary genital exam from the doctor.

"I can’t say that I’m surprised, unfortunately,” Snyder-Hill said of The Dispatch’s findings about Ohio doctors and sexual misconduct.

The medical board became aware of alleged misconduct by Strauss in 1996.

Former Ohio State University student Steve Snyder-Hill received a copy of the complaint he filed against Dr. Richard Strauss.  Steve poses for a photo at his house in Columbus on July 19, 2018.  [Kyle Robertson/Dispatch]


But after taking initial steps to gather patient records and take action against Strauss' medical license, the investigation inexplicably sat inactive for months. It was eventually closed in 2002, with no action ever taken.

When Snyder-Hill reported Strauss to Ohio State administrators in the 1990s, he said then-student health services director Dr. Ted Grace told him he never received a complaint about Strauss before. In fact, Grace was actually made aware of a similar complaint about Strauss from another student days earlier, issued him a warning and implemented a chaperone policy for his visits with male patients, according to an investigative report from the law firm Perkins Coie that Ohio State commissioned.

After Strauss' abuse was uncovered in 2018, Snyder-Hill, now 52, told the medical board that Grace knew about the accusation and failed to report it. Grace agreed to give up his license shortly before a board hearing.

Grace did not return calls from The Dispatch. In 2019, he told The Southern Illinoisan student newspaper that Perkins Coie investigators misrepresented him, and that he did "the best I could," in handling the Strauss matter.

Snyder-Hill said he’s dismayed by the inconsistencies in the medical board's handling of complaints, especially in regards to sexual misconduct.

More in this series:'He deserved worse than what he got': Circleville doctor may have abused 150 patients

Snyder-Hill credited the board for taking action against Grace. Still, he said he sometimes fears he was "used as a pawn" by state leaders to help pin the blame for Strauss' abuse on someone still alive.

While Snyder-Hill understands the board must weigh protecting accusers and doctors, he said the board should do so by "listening first, and not judging and gaslighting."

Snyder-Hill fought both the state and his alma mater over the abuse he suffered at the hands of Strauss. A federal appeals court recently validated Snyder-Hill and other Strauss victims when it ruled their lawsuits could move forward, overruling a lower court's decision that the statute of limitations had expired.

Despite the win, Snyder-Hill said he has paid a price in his fight for justice.

A member of the U.S. Army Reserve, he said he's been called a "disgrace to veterans" for coming forward. He frequently receives hate mail containing gay slurs, he said. One letter read: "I'm glad your cat died" after Snyder-Hill posted on social media about losing his pet.

While the hatred can sometimes feel "unbearable," what's worse is that little to nothing has been done to prevent another Strauss, Snyder-Hill said.

Decades after Strauss's misdeeds, The Dispatch's investigation shows he was just one example of doctors sexually abusing multiple patients over the course of their medical careers.

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In a Cincinnati case, psychiatrist Dr. Leo D’Souza was accused of abusing at least five patients from 1998 through 2006, board records show.

He allegedly used his ungloved hands to examine the genitals of five patients, four of whom were minors. D’Souza said he was checking the teenage patients for sexually transmitted diseases despite the fact that he was a psychiatrist treating patients for mental health issues.

At first, the medical board agreed to allow D’Souza to keep practicing so long as he had a chaperone with him when treating minors, according to board records. It took nine months for the board to revoke D’Souza’s license. The Dispatch could not reach D'Souza by phone or email for comment.

In Bluffton, a northwest Ohio town of fewer than 4,000 residents, Dr. James Gideon was accused of abusing at least 19 women from 2013 through 2017, according to board records.

Read More:Sickening snapshots: A closer look at accusations of doctors preying on patients

Gideon, who often referred to his patients' breasts as "the ladies" and "the girls," was accused of a wide variety of abuse. He fondled his patients, including one who laid unconscious on an exam table after dozing off.

The accusations against Gideon so clearly violated state law that in June 2017 the medical board suspended his license before a hearing could even be held.

Still, it took the board a year before it permanently revoked Gideon's medical license in June 2018. The doctor gave up his license without a fight, records show.

Gideon was convicted in 2017 in Lima Municipal Court on three charges of sexual imposition.

An appeals court overturned that conviction, determining Gideon's statements to a medical board investigator were inadmissible. But, his conviction was later upheld by the Ohio Supreme Court.


When reached by The Dispatch, Gideon claimed he was manipulated by the medical board in what he described as a biased process.

“I am not a sexual predator,” he said. “It’s ruined me, and it’s deprived an awful lot of people of good care.”

The 449 patients The Dispatch found who were abused or harassed by doctors doesn’t include survivors who have never come forward or those who the medical board did not use to make their case against doctors. It also doesn’t include the victims of Strauss, who was never held accountable by the board.

The true toll is “exponentially higher” and will likely increase unless something changes, said Wendy Murphy, adjunct professor of sexual violence law at New England Law Boston.

“No matter how horrific the story, no matter how big the scandal, some things just don't change,” she said. “I credit that to the fact that agencies like licensing boards are in the business — to some extent — of keeping things quiet and that is the rocket fuel behind the continuation of the behavior."

Consent isn't possible

Consensual or not, sexual encounters between patients and their doctors have always been prohibited on ethical grounds.

About 22%, or 57 of the 256 doctors disciplined for misconduct, claimed they had consensual sexual or romantic relationships with one or more patients or a pediatric patient's parent.

One such case in northwest Ohio led to significant changes in ethics rules. In 1997, Dr. Gary Gladieux was accused of having sex with the mothers of seven patients over multiple years.

The medical board suspended the pediatrician's license for two years.

Caption needed


Gladieux at the time said the sex was consensual and did not affect patient care. He unsuccessfully fought the medical board in court, arguing that no specific policy banned the relationships.

The case garnered national attention when it prompted the American Medical Association in 1998 to say it is unethical for doctors to have sex or engage in romantic relationships with their patients' spouses, parents, guardians or surrogates. The American Academy of Pediatrics in August 1999 formally issued a similar policy.

The board reinstated Gladieux's license in 2001 and he continues to practice medicine today. He did not respond to multiple requests to comment.

"We don't want professionals who are licensed to care for people who are vulnerable to take advantage of that power they have over people, period," Murphy said. "That's why it has to be made public. ... We the people have the right to pass judgment on that doctor who's exploiting his power that we the people have bestowed upon him."

'Follow the law'

Of the 256 doctors disciplined for sexual misconduct, just eight doctors, or 3%, are registered sex offenders. Of the total cited, 76, or nearly 30%, appear to have been charged or convicted of a crime, a Dispatch analysis found.

Ohio law requires the medical board to report cases of felony sexual misconduct to law enforcement. But former state attorney general Betty Montgomery, who served as medical board president in 2022, said investigators didn't always adhere to the law.

As recently as 2019, there was not even a mention in the board's official investigative manual that employees needed to notify law enforcement of sexual misconduct when it rose to the level of a crime. The board changed that in March 2020 by creating a new policy specifically spelling out when and how board workers must report sexual misconduct to law enforcement.

Betty D. Montgomery is a former Ohio attorney general, auditor of state, state senator for District 2 and prosecuting attorney for Wood County. She is currently of counsel with Mac Murray & Shuster LLP.


It's a change Montgomery admitted shouldn't have been necessary to ensure the board abided by state law.

“Boy, that’s an interesting concept. Follow the law, is that what you’re saying?” Montgomery quipped when asked about the change.

Survivors of doctor sexual abuse or harassment who spoke to The Dispatch questioned why so many members of the state medical board are doctors and therefore allowed to adjudicate cases against their fellow physicians. Twelve people sit on the state medical board and nine of them are doctors.

Read More:'A black hole': How the state medical board bungled sex abuse cases for years

With doctors judging other medical professionals, some worry they may be letting colleagues off easy. Others told The Dispatch even if that’s not happening, it creates the perception that it’s possible.

DeWine and board leaders disagreed.

The officials said physician input is important. However, DeWine said it’s fair to question the balance of the 12-member board.

“I think a doctor can be independent, but the real question is what is the proper balance on the board with members of the public and members of the medical community,” DeWine said. “I think it’s something that should be looked at by the legislature.”

Calling it what it is

The medical board’s own practices made it difficult to compile an accurate tally of sexual misconduct cases.

The board doesn’t investigate complaints of sexual abuse or harassment against doctors who work for the Veterans Administration or the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Instead, the board refers every accusation back to the VA or the state prison system, meaning they were not included in disciplinary records reviewed by The Dispatch.

July 11, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Hortense Miller-Woods, 66, was sexually abused by her doctor in 2007. The physician, Dr. Mohan Chandran in Sandusky, was eventually stripped of his medical license. He was also sentenced to 15 months in prison after a total of five women came forward with sexual abuse allegations against him.


The medical board’s investigative records are sealed indefinitely and are not subject to discovery in civil court. Even if a doctor admits to sexually abusing a patient, investigative files remain confidential.

Sometimes, the board doesn’t even call sexual misconduct by its name. Records show the board sometimes hides sexual offenses under terms like “boundary crossings” and “unprofessional conduct.”

That’s how the accusations against neurologist Dr. Mohan Chandran were labeled. Chandran was a Sandusky-based doctor who was accused of abusing five female patients between February and July 2007.

A monthly board report stated Chandran was cited for assault and his “conduct toward five specified patients.”

One of those patients was Hortense Miller-Woods, now 66, who saw Chandran for arthritis treatment in 2007.

Preying On Patients:A guide to The Dispatch's investigation of doctor sexual misconduct in Ohio

During an appointment, she said Chandran stuck a needle in her neck and then slid his tongue into her mouth. She couldn’t move or yell for help for risk of the needle moving and injuring her.

She said the assault lasted about a minute before Chandran removed the needle. She jumped down from the examination table and ran out of the room.

“No woman should have to go through that. It was a simple case of a man thinking he could do whatever he wanted with female patients,” Miller-Woods said. “I was terrified to go back to see other doctors and even now I do heavy research on all of them before I walk into their office.”

Miller-Woods reported Chandran to police, who informed her she was the fifth person to come forward.

Chandran blamed the sexual abuse on a stroke he suffered in 2005 and said it caused the erratic behavior.


He was sentenced to 15 months in prison after being found guilty on five charges of misdemeanor assault in May 2008. The medical board didn’t strip Chandran of his medical license until September 2009.

He did not respond to requests to comment.

“What Mr. Chandran did to me was humiliating, degrading and disrespectful,” another survivor said in court. “I use the title Mr. Chandran because he doesn’t deserve the title of doctor.”

When the board waits

The medical board has sometimes taken months or years to revoke a doctor's license — even in seemingly clear-cut cases.

That's exactly what happened with Dr. Mark Blankenburg and Dr. Robert “Scott” Blankenburg, who were both highly respected pediatricians and supporters of youth sports in southwest Ohio.

But in December 2008, Mark Blankenburg was charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, and in March 2009 Robert Blankenburg was charged with corruption of a minor.

Still, the board didn't act.

Mark Blankenburg was convicted in October 2009 and sentenced to up to 27 years in prison. His brother struck a plea deal in January 2010 with Butler County prosecutors to serve 13 years in prison. Mark Blankenburg declined to comment and Robert Blankenburg could not be reached for comment.

Dr. Mark Blankenburg is taken into custody after being found guilty of 16 sex-related charges involving former patients, Friday Oct. 16, 2009, in front of Butler County Common Pleas Judge Keith Spaeth in Hamilton, Ohio. His twin brother Dr. R. Scott Blankenburg, also a pediatrician, will be tried on 22 similar felony charges April 2010 in Hamilton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Hamilton Journal News, Nick Daggy)


Even after the convictions, a month passed before the medical board suspended Mark Blankenburg’s license and several more went by before the board revoked it in June 2010. The board revoked Robert Blankenburg’s license in March 2010, three months after he pleaded guilty.

Board records also exclude the fact that the twin doctors abused their own patients, whom prosecutors said were groomed and bribed with drugs and money.

A former patient from Hamilton in Butler County, who said the doctors abused him, testified to the grand jury that ultimately indicted Robert Blankenburg. He spoke to The Dispatch on the condition of anonymity.

The man said he went to see Dr. Mark Blankenburg for a physical he needed to play seventh-grade football. He was 12 at the time.

During the examination, the man said Mark Blankenburg spent a long time examining his genitals. He thought it was odd but didn’t realize it until a few years later when he saw a different doctor for a physical in high school and the exam took no time at all.

“It had to be 10 to 15 minutes. It felt like forever,” he said. “I didn't really think anything about it, because I thought this is what a physical is. But when I look back at it, that was definitely inappropriate.”

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The Blankenburg brothers were unofficial team photographers for local youth sports and often invited teens to their “party house,” where they gave kids alcohol, and drugs like Xanax and opioids, the Hamilton man said.

He said the two doctors got him addicted to painkillers and later heroin.

One day, the man said he was at the house drinking a beer when Robert Blankenburg gave him Xanax.

The combination made the man pass out. He woke up to find his pants removed, pornography playing on the TV and Robert Blankenburg sitting on the floor nearby.

Robert Blankenburg apologized to the man, who was then a teenager, for performing oral sex on him while he was unconscious.

Robert Blankenburg promised it would never happen again. Then, a few weeks later it occurred a second time.

Each time Robert Blankenburg begged the man not to tell anyone and continued to bribe him with money and drugs. The man had experienced withdrawal a few times already and wanted to avoid it again, so he obeyed.

“I was willing to say whatever they needed me to say. ... At this point, I was so strung out.” the man said.

A 'change in culture'

In the years since the medical board was outed for its inaction on Strauss, a new director was appointed and a series of internal changes were made.

The board eliminated expiration dates for cases, Loucka said.

Since January 2020, fines for sexual misconduct range from $1,000 to $5,000 if a doctor commits sexual misconduct without physical contact with a patient. If there is sexual contact, a doctor can be fined anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000.

Aug 10, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, United States; The state medical board meets for its regular monthly meeting.


Doctors who commit sexual impropriety, such as making suggestive comments or asking a patient on a date, will at least face probation while doctors accused of physical sexual abuse could face a minimum of a one-year suspension, according to the medical board.

For the first time since the 1990s, the medical board increased its staffing in 2022.

The board hired a victim coordinator, a manager of compliance, a sexual misconduct enforcement attorney, an additional hearing officer and more investigators, two of whom now take the lead on sexual misconduct cases. The board now employs 85 people, the highest number of workers its ever had, spokeswoman Jerica Stewart said in a memorandum to The Dispatch.

Preying On Patients:Dispatch reporters uncovered hundreds of doctors preying on patients. Here's how they did it

Board officials said they established a quality assurance committee in January 2022 that audits cases to ensure they were handled properly.

The changes followed reports by a working group created by the governor to examine the board’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations, following the Strauss scandal.

The adjustments signal a “change in culture” at the board that is more consistent with “the great responsibility a doctor owes their patients,” DeWine said.


After the Strauss revelations, DeWine appointed the working group to review previously closed cases. The group re-examined 1,254 complaints dating back 25 years and recommended that the board reopen 91.

The board closed nearly 80% of the 91 cases again for various reasons.

Medical board leaders hope a bill proposed in 2022 by state Sen. Bob Hackett, R-Springfield, will be reintroduced this legislative session and bring further reform.

If passed and signed into law, Senate Bill 322 would require physicians on probation with the medical board for sexual misconduct to inform their patients. The legislation would permit the board to share the status of an investigation with a complainant.

It would also allow the board to automatically suspend a doctor’s license for 90 days if a doctor is indicted or if a license was suspended, revoked or surrendered in another state. A public member of the medical board would be added to the investigatory team to increase oversight.


But the bill was introduced in April 2022 and went nowhere. Lawmakers have yet to reintroduce the bill during the 2023 legislative session that began in January.

Both DeWine and Loucka said they’re hopeful the state legislature will pass S.B. 322 this year.

“I'm hoping that this story may help with that as well,” Loucka said. “I don't have any reason to believe that it won't move. But again, that would be probably a better question for the legislature. … We're certainly going to do our part to try.”

Does the bill do enough?

Even if the bill becomes law, experts told The Dispatch that it doesn’t go far enough to address doctor sexual misconduct.

For example, a strict statute of limitations remains a major hurdle for any patient seeking justice in court.

Ohio law allows victims of childhood sexual abuse to file a civil lawsuit until they’re 30 years old. Adult victims of sexual abuse have a one- to two-year window during which they can file a civil claim in Ohio.

Criminal charges can be brought until a child victim turns 43, with an additional five years granted if DNA is found afterward.

One argument for extending those statutes is that it often takes time for survivors of sexual abuse to even realize what had happened, said Konrad Kircher, a Cincinnati-based attorney who has handled a handful of civil cases against doctors.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, second from left, speaks during a press conference in  which he signed an executive order creating a committee to examine an unredacted version of the Ohio State report which contained confidential information from a 1996 State of Ohio Medical Board investigation into Strauss. DeWine later directed the medical board to examine more of its former investigations.


Advocates have said the average age survivors of child sexual abuse come forward is 52. That realization may take even more time for survivors of doctor sexual misconduct because abuse or harassment is typically veiled as treatment, Kircher said.

“There’s often confusion over what just happened,” Kircher said. “Patients might be asking themselves, was it standard medical practice or were they just abused?”

While DeWine wants the legislature to consider S.B. 322 first, he said there's room for even more reform. Additional legislation should be considered to create a stand-alone sexual misconduct investigative unit and a requirement that the medical board make public the number of complaints it receives against a doctor, DeWine said.

If the board and legislature can make more meaningful changes, DeWine said the result will be better for the state and the patients it's responsible for protecting.

“I think the medical board is certainly moving in the right direction. I’m happy with the progress that has been made," DeWine said. "We have to continue to be very, very diligent.”

'The most-respected person' in town

Dr. Noel Watson played many roles in Jamie Lawson’s life: family doctor, mentor, employer, friend and confidant.

After Lawson’s parents divorced when he was about 9 years old, he could lean on the physician for support he didn’t always find at home.

But Lawson still struggles to reconcile that man with the one he would later come to understand as someone far more sinister: groomer, abuser and a convicted sex offender.

At the age of 12, Lawson said he began helping Watson with odd jobs around his home, such as yard work and painting. Lawson at the time thought Watson was “the most-respected person in Germantown,” a small city southwest of Dayton.

Aug 18, 2022; Xenia, OH, USA; Jamie Lawson  was sexually abused by his family doctor, Dr. Noel Watson, from age 14 to 21. Watson is now serving prison time for gross sexual imposition and other charges relating to the sexual abuse of his patients. Lawson has been in and out of a group home trying to get help and come to terms with his experience.


When Lawson was 14, Watson summoned him into his home office. He said the doctor instructed him to drop his pants, injected him with narcotics and sexually abused him.

It started with touching and masturbation, then escalated to oral and anal sex, Lawson said. The abuse went on for years and Lawson said it occurred hundreds of times and always involved drugs.

By 17, Lawson was addicted to drugs and felt trapped in a cycle of sexual abuse.

From the first instance of abuse through the seven years it continued, Lawson blamed himself for what was occurring. He didn’t know how his parents would react if he told them, and convinced himself that he would be in trouble if he spoke up.

“I remember walking back and just thinking, I'm going to hell for this,” Lawson said in an interview with The Dispatch. “Like I committed this sin.”


Even years later, as Lawson began to comprehend the abuse Watson had subjected him to, he struggled with whether or not to report the doctor’s actions.

“Who's going to believe me over the most respected person in Germantown?” he asked.

But Lawson recalled Watson telling him about teenage boys before him, and he feared the doctor would continue to groom and sexually abuse others.

Lawson reported Watson to police in October 2020.

As police began investigating Watson, the medical board first cited him in January 2021 with improperly prescribing medication to 10 patients. Six weeks before prosecutors charged Watson with 11 counts of sexual battery on Aug. 30, 2021, the board cited him for sexual abuse.

The board also took the rare step of suspending Watson's license before holding a hearing on the accusations. Watson permanently surrendered his license in September 2021, according to board records.

Aug 18, 2022; Xenia, OH, USA; Jamie Lawson  was sexually abused by his family doctor, Dr. Noel Watson, from age 14 to 21. Watson is now serving prison time for gross sexual imposition and other charges relating to the sexual abuse of his patients. Lawson has been in and out of a group home trying to get help and come to terms with his experience.


After law enforcement stepped in, the board moved with a level of expediency it lacked when taking action against the Blankenburg brothers, who were similarly accused of abusing children.

Watson pleaded guilty to 11 counts of sexual battery, stemming from his conduct with Lawson and two other victims, both of whom were also sexually abused by Watson when they were in their teens.

In October 2021 a judge sentenced him to the maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. Watson, who declined an interview request, will be 91 when his sentence is finished.

While the medical board and prosecutors took quick, decisive action against Watson as law enforcement closed in, Lawson has continued to suffer even with his former doctor behind bars.

Lawson recently bought a home and is employed. That's a marked improvement from 2022 when he struggled to keep a job and moved frequently as he continued to cope with Watson's abuse.

But Lawson continues to fight panic attacks, anxiety and depression. He is living proof that even when the medical board does what it should, it can't nullify the trauma inflicted by doctors.

“I don’t want to remember anything that happened,” he said. “But that's all I do, is remember.”

How to get help and report sexual abuse by a medical professional

▪ To file a report, call your local police or sheriff’s department.
▪ To file a complaint, visit the State Medical Board of Ohio online , or call the board's confidential complaint hotline at 1-833-333-7626.
▪ Call the Ohio Sexual Violence Helpline at 844-6446-4357.
▪ For a directory of rape crisis centers in each of Ohio's 88 counties, visit the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence online.
▪ To speak with someone confidentially, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or chat online.
▪ For more information on child sexual abuse, visit the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network online.



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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hundreds of Ohio doctors disciplined by state for sexual misconduct