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MD’s standard-of-care defense not relevant to ruling on criminal sexual misconduct

Arguments about medical standards were irrelevant to the criminal charge against a physician convicted of inappropriate sexual touching of a patient, an appellate court in Ohio ruled June 1. Rejecting an argument by a physician that his actions had been within the standard of medical care, the court held the state was only required to prove that the doctor knew or recklessly disregarded that his touching was offensive.

State v. Gideon

In 2018, physician James Gideon was convicted on charges of sexual imposition after a patient accused him of inappropriately touching her during a medical examination.

The Court of Appeals of Ohio vacated the conviction and remanded on the grounds that the trial court should have granted Gideon motions to suppress evidence in response to his claim that the potential for him to lose his medical license by refusing to testify was unconstitutional coercion, but the Ohio Supreme Court later held that Gideon’s belief that his license would be disciplined was not reasonable and could not be a basis of a coercion claim.

On remand, the Court of Appeals considered three additional arguments made by Gideon. The first two concerned the trial court’s decision to consolidate the charges against him, which he claimed impermissibly allowed the jury to hear testimony concerning one charge and use that to corroborate the other charges. The court rejected these arguments.

The last claim made by Gideon concerned the sufficiency of the evidence. Gideon argued that the state had failed to present any evidence that his use of the ostensibly-therapeutic massage which gave rise to the charges of sexual imposition fell outside the scope of acceptable medical care. He also argued that one of the witnesses against him was not credible.

Gideon’s argument did not persuade the judges, who affirmed his conviction. Under Ohio criminal law, the state simply had to prove that Gideon knew that his contact with his patient was offensive or that he was reckless in that regard.

Judge William Zimmerman wrote that “Requiring the State to prove that a touching falls outside of the scope of reasonable medical care for a person to be guilty of sexual imposition adds an additional element to the offense of sexual imposition not included by the legislature.”