Orthopedic surgeon pays $5k to settle ethics violation allegation, agrees to be monitored after marrying former patient

Practice Management

An orthopedic surgeon in Fort Madison, Iowa, paid the Iowa Board of Medicine $5,000 to settle allegations of an ethics violation after he engaged in a relationship with, and eventually married, a former patient, according to a report in The Des Moines Register


Here are five things to know:


1. Regulators claim Joseph Darrow Jr., MD, engaged in a sexual relationship with a female patient "while or shortly after" she was his patient, and the Iowa Board of Medicine claims his behavior violated ethics rules.


2. To settle the case, Dr. Darrow paid the fine and agreed to psychological testing in addition to undergoing training on professional boundaries. He will also have another physician monitor his work as a result of the violation.


3. Dr. Darrow now practices in Kirksville, Mo. He married the former patient with whom he had the affair.


4. Earlier this year, Medscape released its Physician Ethics Report showing 70 percent of physicians feel it is always unethical to engage in relationships with patients or former patients and feel it should be prohibited. Around 2 percent of physicians felt it was acceptable to have a relationship with a current patient.


5. According to the Medscape report, there is an imbalance of power between the physician and patient, contributing to the patient's vulnerability. Underlying mental health issues could also contribute to the reason why such relationships are unethical.


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