Across the state of Washington, a Seattle Times investigation has found, health-care professionals have sexually abused hundreds of patients. As in other professions that are built on an imbalance of power and rely on trust – teaching, coaching, the clergy – some caregivers have violated that trust in ways that are shocking in their brazenness. But even more alarming is this: The state of Washington makes it easy for the abusers to get away with it again and again.
State Health Department files, many opened for the first time after legal challenges by The Times, reveal women stalked to their homes, fragile teenagers groomed for sex, destitute patients forced to have sex in exchange for care. And many of the perpetrators are still seeing patients. In the past decade, scores of Washington health-care practitioners have retained their licenses after violating patients. Repeatedly, the state Department of Health has failed to adequately investigate and punish the offenders. Since 1995, the agency has dismissed 461 sexual-misconduct complaints – about a third of the nearly 1,500 received – without making so much as a single telephone inquiry.