The revelation that Rep. Scott DesJarlais slept with a patient and suggested she have an abortion a dozen years ago has been pounced upon by his Democratic opponents-and now a non-partisan, D.C.-based group is joining the pool.
DesJarlais, a Jasper physician who represent’s Tennessee’s 4th congressional district, was the focus of a complaint filed Monday by Citizens for Responsibility in Ethics in Washington (CREW), a watchdog group that works to hold government officials accountable.
The complaint was directed to the Tennessee Department of Health, against the congressman for “conducting an inappropriate sexual relationship with a patient.” The department’s board of medical examiners, which oversees the granting of medical licenses, considers a violation to have occurred when any sexual contact between a physician and one of their current or former patients takes place, even in the event of a consensual relationship.
In a news release accompanying the complaint, CREW executive director Melanie Sloan slammed the congressman for his past conduct, which he has not denied in repeated interviews.
“The fact that Dr. DesJarlais engaged in a sexual relationship with a female patient he was treating for a medical condition-something that he does not deny-merits an immediate investigation and sanctions,” Sloan said. “That Dr. DesJarlais was married at the time of the relationship and urged this woman to have an abortion if pregnant simply adds to the outrageousness of his conduct and indicates serious disciplinary action is required to protect the public.”
The action comes nearly a week after The Huffington Post published portions of a phone transcript between DesJarlais and an unnamed woman-a patient he had been treating for a foot problem. During the call, recorded in September of 2000, DesJarlais and the woman argue over whether or not she is pregnant, and whether or not he should accompany her to a clinic in order to terminate the pregnancy.
During the conversation, the woman attempts to blame DesJarlais for the predicament they’re in.
“It’s your fault for sleeping with your patient,” she says.
DesJarlais responds by saying he didn’t initiate the relationship, and that it was suggested by the woman after he had called to check on her medical issues.
Despite acknowledging the content of the transcript, the pro-life congressman has denied the woman was ever pregnant, and has added that an abortion never took place. DesJarlais has said that during the call, he suspected he was being misled, and resorted to using “strong rhetoric” in an attempt to get the woman to admit that there was no pregnancy.
In the transcript, DesJarlais is also quoted saying that he and the woman had “mutually agreed” to their relationship, despite their status as patient and doctor.
The congressman has said he plans to return to practice after serving six years in Congress. There is no history of disciplinary action on his medical license, which is set to expire in 2014.
DesJarlais is being challenged in next month’s election by Democrat state Sen. Eric Stewart.
The election is Nov. 6.