Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Doctor Facing Sex Abuse Charges

Today, an Oregon anesthesiologist, Dr. David Burleson, pleaded not guilty to felony sex abuse charges. Dr. Burleson is charged with fondling two patients who had been sedated. The case represents the next step in a long process that included a legal showdown in front of the Oregon Supreme Court.

Apparently, employees of a clinic where Dr. Burleson provided care witnessed him fondling sedated patients. When subpoenaed to a grand jury, a witness refused to provide medical records identifying the victims.

The State appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court. Here is a link to the opinion: State of Oregon v. Burleson, (June 1, 2007). The short version is that the Supreme Court ruled that the witnesses must identify the victims.

It's nice to see that the system is taking Dr. Burleson's conduct seriously. In earlier times, sexual misconduct by professionals was swept under the rug. Patients suffered, and so did the profession. Bringing professional misconduct into the light of day provides important protection to future patients. Weeding out the bad doctors helps all of us.

David F. Sugerman
Paul & Sugerman, PC


Anonymous said...

what about ferreting out bad attorneys?

David F. Sugerman said...

Great question, anon. The short answer is that the same standards should apply.

But here's what's interesting. Anybody can get an Oregon attorney's entire disciplinary file by contacting the Oregon State Bar. [url:] Because it's public record, you won't see the same secrecy problem. You can't get that information on an Oregon doctor because doctor discipline files are not for public disclosure.

But of course, secrecy is only part of the problem. There's also policing. Most of us who handle sex abuse cases do so regardless of who is doing the abuse. That's true whether the abuser is a doctor, lawyer, teacher, police officer, or member of the clergy. The process starts with looking at what happened and what we think we can prove.

As for non-sexual misconduct, many of us--myself included--handle cases against lawyers who make mistakes that cause damage to people. Personally, I have represented people harmed by lawyer misconduct. I have even testified in trial as an expert witness, in a case in which a lawyer took money from his client.