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Signs that Your Doctor May Be a Sexual Predator

On December 29, 2018, a patient who has been in a coma for 14 years shocked medical staffers when she started “moaning” in her bed. Not a single doctor or nurse had any idea that she was pregnant until she gave birth that very morning. Local police are currently investigating the incident, but all signs indicate that the patient was raped in her hospital bed and impregnated by an unknown assailant. While this may sound like a scene straight out of Kill Bill Vol.1, it’s unfortunately, a tragic real-life situation that occurred at Hacienda Heights in Arizona.

The patient in question has been a resident of the facility since she was 3 years old. According to court records, she is “incapacitated” and “unable to make any decisions or give consent due to her disability.” Law enforcement officials are concerned that the patient has been sexually assaulted more than once, and may not be the only victim at the hospital.

A National Crisis

Sexual contact between a doctor and a patient is ethically and legally forbidden. Unfortunately, the sexual exploitation of patients isn’t an uncommon occurrence. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) launched a national investigation after discovering that two-thirds of the doctors disciplined for sexual misconduct in Georgia were permitted to practice again.

The AJC recovered over 100,000 disciplinary documents from across the country to research cases that may have involved sexual misconduct. In “License to Betray,” an article documenting the ACJ’s findings, the authors explain that “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution examined documents that described disturbing acts of physician sexual abuse in every state. Rapes by OB/GYNs, seductions by psychiatrists, fondling by anesthesiologists and ophthalmologists, and molestations by pediatricians and radiologists…victims were babies. Adolescents. Women in their 80s. Drug addicts and jail inmates. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse.”

Oftentimes, patients are victimized while doctors are pretending to do legitimate medical examinations. For example, the ACJ noted a case where a doctor performed dozens of unnecessary Pap smears on a single patient. In a more troubling scenario, there have been cases where young children have been sexually molested with their trusting and uninformed parents in the examination room.

We rely on our medical care professionals to treat us with dignity while providing us with essential treatments and life-saving procedures. But when the line blurs so easily, how can you recognize if a doctor is sexually abusing you? If you have concerns, it’s important to seek a second opinion from an unaffiliated medical professional or contact an anti-sexual violence organization. For example, the National Sexual Assault Hotline operated by RAINN is a free, safe, and confidential service operated by trained staff members. They can talk you through your experience and provide you with important information, including health and legal resources. Of course, if you are being abused, it’s imperative that you call a qualified legal representative as soon as possible.

What Constitutes Sexual Misconduct & Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse claims are highly sensitive and complicated issues, especially when medical professionals are involved. Many victims instinctively trust their doctors as authority figures, and struggle to reconcile the reality of their abusive words and actions.

David Clohessy, the executive director of SNAP, a support and advocacy organization for victims of sexual assault, claims that patients view medical professionals with “too much deference and automatic respect.” He further explains, “We are so reliant on them, we are so helpless and vulnerable and literally in pain oftentimes when we go in there. We just have to trust them. So when they cross the boundary and their hands go into the wrong places, we are in shock, we are paralyzed, we’re confused, we’re scared. We just do not want to believe, first of all, that a doctor is capable of this, and secondly that their colleagues and supervisors will not address this immediately when we report it.”

A medical professional is guilty of sexual misconduct or abuse if he or she commits the following actions or behaviors:

  • Fails to provide a draping gown during medical examination
  • Watches or helps a patient dress or undress (unless the patient is physically or cognitively incapable of completing this action)
  • Takes photographs of the patient while pretending to do a legitimate medical exam
  • Makes sexual comments about a patient’s body or sexual ability
  • Solicits a date with a patient
  • Requests details about the patient’s sexual history or sexual interests (unrelated to the exam)
  • Examines a patient’s genitals without gloves
  • Performing an intimate exam without clinical justification
  • Acting inappropriately during an exam, such as touching a sexualized body part outside the exam or without patient consent
  • Encouraging the patient to engage in sexual behaviors

It’s estimated that thousands of doctors across the country are guilty of sexually violating their patients. In most cases, other hospital staff members and supervisors are even aware of the misconduct. So how do they get away with it?

How Medical Professionals Get Away with It

Sadly, these patients are often the victims of misplaced trust and manipulation. They may feel confused, embarrassed, or, in most cases, afraid that no one will believe them. According to the ACJ, “A few physicians – with hundreds of victims – are among the nation’s worst sex offenders. But the toll can’t be measured by numbers alone. For the patients, the violations can be life-altering. The betrayal even pushed some to suicide.”

Hospitals and health care organizations are diligent about protecting their public and professional image. They’re more likely to ignore accusations or quietly remove questionable doctors before an investigation can find its footing. It’s up to the patients and medical staff to report these sex offenders to the police or applicable licensing agencies. However, physician-dominated medical boars usually give their professional colleagues second chances. Worse, the ACJ notes that prosecutors frequently dismiss or reduce charges to help doctors stay off sex offender registries.

In a specific case, Erin Vance was one of 12 women sexually assaulted by Dr. Frederick Field, an anesthesiologist in Oregon. As Vance explains, “I couldn’t move. I was completely at the mercy of whoever was there, and it turned out that the other person who was there was a serial predator.” This anesthesiologist had been reported by other patients in the past, but the hospital ignored the accusations and indirectly condoning this unforgivable behavior.

Pursuing Legal Action

If you’ve been sexually abused by a medical professional, contact the Las Vegas sexual abuse attorneys at Bernstein & Poisson. Per Nevada’s Malpractice Statute, you only have 1 year after the incident to file a claim. Because this isn’t a case of intent and not negligence, the doctor’s medical malpractice insurance may not cover a sexual abuse case. However, our experienced legal team has the skills and resources to meticulously investigate your case and maximize your claim.

We provide 24/7 legal services. Contact Bernstein & Poisson at (702) 602-8869 to schedule a free consultation.