Ohio State University and the state board that regulates physicians are trying a new strategy in hopes of being able to make more information public from the board’s old investigation involving a team doctor who sexually abused students for two decades.
Details about the mid-1990s State Medical Board investigation involving the late Dr. Richard Strauss have remained confidential under state law, but that might change if the parties involved waive their confidentiality.
The board voted Thursday to do so. If the original party that made the complaint and patients and witnesses who were also involved do the same, the investigation details related to them could become public.
Ohio State had pushed unsuccessfully to share some of that information in a report last week by a law firm that reviewed allegations about Strauss for the university and concluded he sexually abused at least 177 male students between 1979 and 1997. Instead, the medical board investigation references were redacted.
The medical board wants more than anyone to publicly share that information, but it must uphold the law and make sure it doesn’t undermine witnesses’ trust or its future investigations, board President Michael Schottenstein said.
Ohio State’s suggestion about pursuing the confidentiality waivers is aimed at providing more transparency about the Strauss case without hindering future medical board investigations.
“At the end of the day, everybody is on the same team,” Schottenstein said. “We want this information out there, and we want to make sure this never happens again.”
The medical board and the university haven’t disclosed the exact scope or significance of the confidential information, nor how many people were involved in the investigation and might be asked by Ohio State to consider waiving confidentiality.
Details of the board’s investigation have stayed confidential because it never disciplined Strauss.
The separate law firm investigation conducted for Ohio State over the past year concluded that Strauss groped and ogled young men while treating athletes from at least 16 sports and working at the student health center and his off-campus clinic. It found that numerous university officials heard about his behavior but did little or nothing to stop him.
Strauss was let go as a team doctor and health center physician late in his Ohio State career but kept his tenured faculty position and retired in 1998 with emeritus status.
No one has publicly defended Strauss, who killed himself in 2005 at age 67. In a statement this week, his family offered condolences to those who endured abuse.
Dozens of those accusers are plaintiffs in lawsuits against the university that are being mediated by a federal judge.