Lawmakers say health care professionals are in a position of power, and should receive increased criminal penalties if they take advantage of that trust to commit sexual imposition.
More than 40 patients accused Clintonville chiropractor Ryan Smith of inappropriately touching them during their visits to his chiropractic office. Smith pleaded "no contest" to 66 counts of sexual imposition and recieved a sentence of 180 days in prison, which he will serve on weekends for 60 weeks.
Smith's victims say that punishment is too short and does not fit the crime. A bipartisan group of state lawmakers agree. That's why they're introducing a bill to take the crime of sexual imposition from a misdemeanor to a felony if it's carried out by a health care professional.
The mandatory sentence would be between two to eight years in prison. As of now, only mental health professionals are held to that standard.
“The fact that a chiropractor uses the title of a doctor but is not held to the same standards under the law is sickening and wrong,” says Barb Rathbun, a mental health clinician and the mother of one of Smith’s victims.
The health care professionals that would be held to this standard include:
- Dental hygienists
- Registered nurses or licensed practical nurses
- Physician’s assistants
- Speech-language pathologists
- Occupational therapists
- Physical therapists
- Athletic trainers
- Social workers
“One of our pillars of justice is the simple concept that the punishment should fit the crime,” says state Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), assistant minority leader. “In this situation, the law did not take into account the special relationship chiropractors have with their patients, and the duty that such healthcare professionals have to act in the best interest of their patients, especially when working with children.”
The change only addresses sexual imposition. Other forms of sexual assault by force are already considered felonies.