A Madison, Wis., doctor accused of probing patients' rectums without their consent doesn't have to divulge his sexual orientation, a state appeals court ruled Thursday. The patients argued that the doctor's sexual orientation would demonstrate motive. But the fourth district court of appeals ruled all that matters in the case is whether the doctor deviated from accepted standards of care. The ruling reversed a decision by Dane County circuit judge Moria Krueger.
The two patients, identified in the appeals court ruling only by initials, filed a complaint against the doctor alleging he was negligent for performing digital-rectal prostate exams on them during preemployment physicals. The appeals court ruling doesn't name the doctor. During a deposition, the patients' attorneys asked the doctor about his sexual orientation. The doctor's attorney refused to let him answer, the appeals court ruling said.
The patients filed a motion to compel an answer, citing a case that upheld the admission of a criminal defendant's homosexuality as going toward his motive. Krueger ordered the doctor to respond, saying his answers might lead to admissible evidence. The doctor appealed, saying his motive for conducting the exams doesn't matter. The only question in the case is whether he was negligent, not why, he
The appeals court agreed, adding that the malpractice case isn't a criminal proceeding and the patients don't need to prove the doctor's intent. "The physician's motive or intent in conducting the exams is simply not relevant," Judge David G. Deininger wrote in the opinion. "His civil liability for performing them does not turn on his state of mind...but on whether objective standards of professional care were violated." The appeals court upheld Krueger's rulings to compel the doctor to reveal whether he knew if anyone filed complaints against him in the past and why he left his job with another health care provider. (AP)