As if women’s vulnerability to sexual assault wasn’t high enough, the Florida State Board of Medicine recently ruled that an ex-Air Force doctor who is a convicted rapist may be permitted to retain his medical license and practice in governmental facilities, including the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers. In light of the recent report that found a horrifying number of rapes are occurring at VA hospitals (including medical personnel assaulting patients), the Board’s decision is especially insidious.
In 2008, a military court-martial convicted Dr. Mark Allen Seldes of raping a female colleague after she had taken a sleeping pill. Many military sexual predators do not receive punishments that fit their crimes, and Seldes is no exception, as he was sentenced to only three years of confinement. Now a free man, Seldes now has at his disposal the power, control, and authority that comes with medical professional positions (and that can easily be abused) to possibly rape again. This prediction is not unlikely given that sexual offenders are likely to be serial rapists who commit more than one sexually violent crime in their lifetime, and moreover, these rapes are likely to go undetected.
Also disturbing about this story is how the Board members and other players framed Seldes and his crimes. Brittany Davis of Health News Florida reported that the Board’s decision to permit Seldes to continue practicing medicine was based on the belief that his crime “had nothing to do with his role as a physician.” Seldes’ attorney agreed and argued that because the rape victim was not a patient, “the case had nothing to do with the practice of medicine.”
Considering the amount of power and control doctors wield over their patients, these statements are outrageous. Compounding the lack of understanding of sexual violence dynamics on the part of Florida’s Board of Medicine are remarks made by Seldes’ attorney, Kenneth Haber, who reduces Seldes’ violent sexual crime to a “terrible mistake.” This phrase is a euphemism for an illegal, reprehensible action that reeks of misogyny. Rape is never a “mistake,” but rather a crime committed by people who see women as objects and as less than human. Is this really the kind of person patients should trust to medically examine them and provide for their well-being?
The real mistake is the Florida Board of Medicine’s 7-3 decision to allow a monster another chance to prey on vulnerable women. One of the contemporary medical profession’s foundational precept is primmum non nocere (first do no harm), and this is a guiding principle that licensed doctors are supposed to abide by. Certainly, Seldes did not practice this principle, as he committed one of the most heinous crimes human beings can perpetrate against one another. The Board’s inability to recognize this fact also shows its fundamental disregard for the principle, as well as its nonchalant attitude towards sexual violence.
Photo by surroundsound5000.
Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists – Violence and Victims
Doctor Allowed to Practice Despite Rape Conviction – Health News Florida