COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Ohio State Medical Board did nothing after finding Dr. Richard Strauss was sexual abusing at least 177 students decades ago, according to a review commissioned by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
During a news conference Friday, DeWine announced that even though investigators with the state medical board found credible evidence of sexual misconduct by Strauss, there was no action to remove Strauss’ medical license, or notification to law enforcement.
DeWine emphasized that not everyone on the board was aware of the findings.
“Those who did, however, failed to take action despite the fact that their own investigator concluded that Dr. Strauss had been, and I quote ‘Performing inappropriate genital exams on male students for years,’” stated DeWine.
The board said its handling of sexual misconduct complaints has “substantially advanced” since its 1996 investigation of an Ohio State University team doctor who was accused of abusing male students but never disciplined.
The governor is asking the medical board to review about 1,500 closed cases involving sexual assault allegations against doctors over the past 25 years to determine if any others involved evidence of criminal misconduct that was ignored.
In May, DeWine ordered a working group to review an unredacted version of the report to see what the medical board knew and when in regards to former OSU doctor Richard Strauss.
DeWine says that Strauss’ suicide in 2005 means he can’t be held accountable, but that learning the facts might prevent a repeat.
The working group’s full report will be released to the public Friday, according to DeWine, but he claimed it may never be known why the medical board ignored the case.
As a result of the group’s findings, DeWine called on the State Medical Board of Ohio to conduct a thorough review of all sexual assault allegations against physicians and other licensed medical personnel that were investigated and closed without action over the past 25 years.
“I have deep concerns that there could be other cases similar to this one – cases where there was clear evidence of criminal misconduct, but that evidence was ignored,” said DeWine. “The examination of these cases will be a major undertaking, but it’s the right thing to do. We cannot risk that there are other sexual assault cases that were mishandled and other predator physicians still practicing medicine.”
The working group also noted an “astounding failure” of anyone in a position of authority at the university to initiate a medical board or criminal investigation into Strauss’ conduct. Although medical board investigators specifically identified physicians in 1996 who may have failed to report Strauss, the board did not pursue action against those individual physicians for allegedly disregarding their statutory obligation to notify the board or law enforcement.
Based on a recommendation from the working group, Governor DeWine has also asked the medical board to identify any Ohio medical license holders who knew or suspected Strauss’ criminal misconduct and investigate whether there were actionable failures to report. The working group also recommended that the board examine any other cases where action was pursued against an offending physician but not pursed against physicians who failed to report the behavior.
Lawyers suing Ohio State over Strauss’ sexual misconduct say they now represent over 300 accusers. The allegations span 1979 to 1997.