75-year-old Edward Bowman is pushing legislators to create a law, “Clara’s Law”, to be named after his late wife Clara Mae, that would ban sexual predators (not sure whether the term “predator” is used to distinguish the different classification or if it’s used by him synonymously with “offender”) from nursing homes, hospitals and medical facilities all over the country.
In 2006, Edward’s late wife was sexually assaulted by a male nurse and he has been on a crusade since to get a law passed in her memory. This year, he is going to walk 237 miles from Mount Dora to Tallahassee, to meet with Florida lawmakers.
While Mr. Bowman has a sad and compelling story, he’s missing the mark on some facts.
Firstly, the nurse who assaulted his wife was not on the registry. Therefore, “Clara’s Law”, had a version been in effect back then, would have done nothing to protect Clara.
Secondly, the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are committed by first time offenders. If another patient is assaulted by a healthcare worker, there’s a 97% base chance that it would be by someone not on the registry, further reduced by the fact that it’s unlikely that a hospital worker with such a criminal history would be working in a capacity where they could assault a patient, making the odds negligible.
Third, the unintended negative consequences of a law that would ban registrants from hospitals, would be that they would be prevented from visiting with loved ones, including their own children (see: https://floridaactioncommittee.org/wi-registrant-father-wins-right-to-visit-sick-son-in-hospital/, https://floridaactioncommittee.org/registrant-denied-access-to-hospital-for-sons-surgery/, https://floridaactioncommittee.org/sex-offenders-banned-from-florida-hospital/).
Bowman has been pushing for a “Clara’s Law”, in one form or another, for over a decade. Prior versions would have required healthcare facilities to report incidents of sexual misconduct (not convictions, but reports) to the state Health Department and potentially a national clearinghouse, but those measures failed.
We can understand Mr. Bowman’s desire to memorialize his wife, but banning an entire class of former offenders from hospitals – the effect of which could be to prevent children facing scary medical procedures from the comfort of their parent – is not going to do Clara any justice.