Editorials

Defrocked priest’s case should trigger disclosure changes for doctors in Missouri, Kansas

It’s unclear if John H. Wisner is still practicing medicine, but it’s unnerving that the former priest in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas still holds a medical license in Kansas and Missouri.

Wisner had been a priest for more than 45 years. He was deservedly defrocked earlier this year after church leaders determined he abused three minors decades ago. He escaped criminal charges and remains a licensed psychiatrist in both states.

The excommunicated priest’s medical license should be revoked by the Missouri Board of Registration for the Healing Arts and the Kansas Board of Healing Arts. And his case should spur changes in criminal disclosure laws that govern medical professionals in the bi-state region.

The Missouri oversight agency is investigating the allegations against Wisner. The Kansas body wouldn’t say whether it is looking into the case. Wisner may lose his license if it is determined he violated rules of professional conduct, but evidence suggests he dishonored both professions. His days as a priest are over. His standing as an expert witness should end as well.

The 71-year-old doesn’t deserve to retain his medical license, victim advocate Patrick Wall told The Star. Stripping away Wisner’s right to practice is “a matter of protecting the public,” he said.

Wall is absolutely right. Not only should Wisner have surrendered his medical license, but the archdiocese should also have reported him to the licensing boards when it learned of the allegations years ago.

Yet the archdiocese has closed ranks, recently telling The Star it “doesn’t have anything more to add to the multiple statements it has issued on this matter in the past.”

The Roman Catholic Church aside, lawmakers in Kansas and Missouri should note California’s approach to criminal disclosure when they return next session. The Golden State is the first in the nation to require physicians to inform patients if they are on probation for harming those under their care.

Doctors in California run afoul of state regulators for sexual misconduct with a patient, drug or alcohol use, overprescribing prescription drugs or criminal convictions.

Such a law may not have helped in Wisner’s case because the archdiocese isn’t required to report transgressions to outside agencies, but regulation is needed nonetheless.

Potential patients have a right to know that a physician with a questionable past is treating them. What better way to find out than from doctors themselves?

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