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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
November 17, 2006

New Ohio medical rules include sexual orientation

Columbus--Doctors will no longer be allowed to criticize a patient�s sexual orientation under new Ohio regulations, nor ask about it unless it is medically necessary.

The state board that regulates medical licenses has adopted rules governing sexual misconduct that address abuses of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients by care providers.

The 12-member State Medical Board of Ohio approved the new regulations November 9, to take effect November 30.

The board licenses and regulates physicians, surgeons, anesthetists, podiatrists, physician assistants, massage therapists, cosmetic therapists and accupuncturists.

The new regulations define sexual misconduct by a professional to include �criticizing the patient�s sexual orientation� and �requesting details of sexual history or sexual likes or dislikes when not clinically indicated.�

These are the first regulations the board has ever had on sexual misconduct, said the board�s executive staff attorney Sallie Debolt.

Debolt said the board averages 8 to 14 complaints of sexual misconduct a year, and that not having the specific regulations has required it to bring in expert testimony every time a complaint is heard.

The board does not keep statistics as to how many of the sexual conduct complaints were specifically related to sexual orientation of the patient, but LGBT organizations and community centers keep informal lists of physicians who have been problematic.

Debolt said the new regulations clarify when questions about sexual orientation are medically necessary and when they are not, and forbids them when they are not.

She noted that the board used a policy paper put out by the Federation of State Medical Boards called �Addressing Sexual Boundaries� as the model for the new regulations, and that the medical professional associations gave input at a hearing in June.

�There was no conflict over the sexual orientation language,� said Debolt.

The new regulations also prohibit a medical professional from expressing thoughts or feelings that can be construed as sexual, anything sexually demeaning to the patient, and sexualized comments about a patient�s body.

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