National News

Medical Experts Blast USC’s Silence Over Gynecologist Scandal

Posted May 17, 2018 11:18 a.m. EDT

For decades, allegations of misconduct dogged the primary gynecologist in the student health center at the University of Southern California. There were reports that he inappropriately touched students during pelvic exams and made sexual comments about their bodies.

Yet even after university officials suspended the doctor, George Tyndall, in 2016 and forced him to step down a year later, they did not report the accusations to the California Medical Board. When their internal investigation was complete, officials said that the findings were a personnel matter and that there was no legal obligation to notify the state oversight board, which investigates doctors accused of misconduct.

Several medical experts and ethicists said Wednesday that, regardless of the law, the university failed to meet its ethical obligation.

Under state law, hospitals and clinics are required to notify the medical board if they suspend or terminate physicians. The board receives nearly 10,000 complaints each year and last year opened more than 1,400 investigations. If it finds serious misconduct, it can revoke a license to practice.

“If we receive a complaint from the member of the public or clinic or another doctor, we look into it,” said Carlos Villatoro, a spokesman for the board. “But the complaint has to come to us in the first place.”

Villatoro said he could not comment on the USC case, but added that “any allegation that an entity is not reporting as required by law will be investigated.”

Jonathan Moreno, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a medical ethics expert, said the decision not to report Tyndall “makes the medical board sort of toothless.”

Moreno said that “it sounds like people were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt more than ought to have with him.”

Isaac Schiff, former chief of obstetrics-gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that if a physician’s behavior led to a suspension or removal, “you have an obligation that the medical board knows about it.”

“You should not be turning an eye or making private deals,” he said. “When institutions just sort of say, ‘Go away quietly and we won’t report you,’ I don’t think that’s correct morally.”

“If a university doesn’t set the standard,” he added, “who does?”