Patients violated, doctors rehabilitated
After medical regulators said he fondled patients, exposed himself and traded drugs for sex, Dr. David Pavlakovic easily could have lost his license. Law enforcement thought his acts were criminal. Instead of losing his job, Pavlakovic was placed in therapy. He was allowed to return to practice. And he didn’t even have to tell his patients.
The way Alabama handled Pavlakovic’s case reflects a growing trend across the nation: Medical regulators are viewing sexual misconduct by doctors as the symptom of an impairment rather than cause for punishment. Doctors who abuse, regulators and therapists say, can be evaluated and managed — sometimes with as little as a three-day course on appropriate doctor-patient “boundaries,” other times with inpatient mental health treatment that may include yoga and massage.
Society has become intolerant of most sex offenders, placing some on lifelong public registries and banishing others from their professions or volunteer activities. But medical regulators have embraced the idea of rehabilitation for physicians accused of sexual misconduct, a [national investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found]("http://doctors.ajc.com/table_of_contents/?ecmp=doctorssexabuse_microsite_nav"). Increasingly, it is left to private therapists, rather than police investigators, to unearth the extent of a doctor’s transgressions. There is little pretense of the check and balance of public scrutiny. Instead, some in the medical profession have discouraged public input, concerned it could trigger outrage that disrupts important work. Even doctors with egregious violations are allowed to redeem themselves through education and treatment centers, which have quietly proliferated over the past two decades.