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False allegations of sexual acts: How do you prove a negative?

If you've been falsely accused of sexual misconduct with a patient, you may be terrified of losing your reputation, license and livelihood.

And it does happen. In a now-famous case, a male patient told an emergency room doctor to change the rating on the severity of his disability or he'd tell the medical board the doctor had molested him. The motive, of course, was financial gain -- the patient wanted to keep his disability benefits coming.

Ultimately, your credibility is in question -- which means that you need to focus on how you can persuade those hearing your defense of your credibility while simultaneously making them question the credibility of the person accusing you.

It ultimately helps your credibility -- and your case -- if you can offer the Administrative Law Judge an alternative scenario -- one that doesn't actually involve you molesting the patient.

Alternative scenarios are essentially the answer to the question, "Why would the patient lie?"

1. Revenge

Like the patient in the first example, the lie may be out of revenge. If the doctor refused to do what the patient wanted -- prescribe a certain drug or fill out a disability certification form, that may be the motivation for revenge.

2. Self-Gratification

Another strong motivator is self-gratification -- basically, either retaliation or fantasy. Sometimes a health care provider is sexually approached by the patient and he or she gently turns the patient down. That could alternately enrage the patient (who then may retaliate by claiming to be a sexual victim) or provoke the less-stable-minded patient into a fantasy where he or she really did have a relationship of some sort with the health care provider. That's a way of avoiding the pain of rejection.

3. Financial Gain

Money may also be a valid reason behind a false accusation of sexual misconduct -- and it is a powerful persuader. If the accuser's finances are a wreck, a nice, hushed-up payoff might be what he or she was hoping to receive. Other financial motives include obtaining or retaining his or her disability benefits or workers' compensation.

A defense to sexual misconduct charges is possible -- but it's wise to get an attorney to help you. An attorney may be able to help you show a credible reason for the false allegation -- which can go a long way toward helping you defend your professional license.

Source: jaapl.org, "Approaches to Forensic Assessment of False Claims of Sexual Misconduct by Therapists," Thomas G. Gutheil, MD, accessed Oct. 27, 2017

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