Sexual Misconduct by Doctors and Other Healthcare Providers

Many people incorrectly assume that an act of sexual assault by a doctor or other healthcare provider cannot happen to them because it is rare and that a person with substantial education and elevated status would never commit such a heinous act. Both of these beliefs are completely inaccurate.

Sexual assaults by doctors can occur to patients of all ages. It is not limited to children or the elderly.  Further, there are absolutely no studies revealing a connection whatsoever between one’s education level and the likelihood of committing sexual assault. Sadly, perpetrators come in all shapes and sizes. Sexual assault by doctors is woefully under-reported because patients, typically women or children, feel uncomfortable coming forward. Alternatively, they feel they will not be believed.

Sexual misconduct by doctors and health care practitioners often fall into three main categories:

(1) Sexual assault by making unwanted, uninvited sexual contact;

(2) A romantic relationship with a former or current patient; and

(3) Gaining sexual access by falsely indicating it is a part of treatment.

Each of these acts constitutes sexual misconduct and can be the subject of a criminal complaint or civil lawsuit. Moreover, they are all considered unethical by the American Medical Association and can result in professional discipline for the doctor or licensed healthcare provider. In many of these cases, doctors have used their power and the vulnerability of their patients to touch patients in places that the patients did not need or wanted to be touched. There are certain settings in which patients are particularly vulnerable for sexual assault. Patients under anesthesia are particularly at risk if they do not have a family member or friend with them. There are many reported cases involving patients under anesthesia who experienced non-consensual “pelvic and genital exams” and/or stripping of their underwear and gown against their wishes. When a hospital or medical practice fails to protect the patients entrusted to their care and those patients are sexually assaulted or raped, the hospital is at fault. They may be liable for negligent hiring for failing to conduct a proper pre-employment screening and negligent supervision/retention for failing to act reasonably in response to the dangers posed by its employees. We represent victims of rape, sexual abuse, and sexual assault in healthcare facilities nationwide.

A recent national investigation uncovered 450 cases of doctors who were brought before medical regulators or courts due to sexual misconduct. The victims included patients and employees, and both adults and children.  In nearly half of those cases, the doctors remained licensed to practice medicine.  Doctors benefit from a system where victims are often not believed, criminal charges for physician sex abuse are rare and doctor-dominated medical licensing boards tend to offer rehabilitation and a return to practice.  At a time when powerful people are losing careers over sexual misconduct, America’s doctors still remain an exception to the strength power of the #MeToo movement.

One common theme we often see in cases of sexual assault by medical providers is that there are often multiple victims of the same perpetrator. Studies on the psychology of sexual predators have taught us that predators will often continue to re-offend when their misconduct is not reported or goes unpunished. It is therefore critical for assault victims to report their assault to law enforcement and the Department of Health. Not only will you be standing up for yourself and holding the perpetrator accountable, but you will also be protecting another patient in the future. There is strength in numbers and we often see that when one victim has the courage to come forward that other victims and whistleblowers come forward as well.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted by a physician or at a doctor’s office or hospital, it is important to have experienced legal counsel. We are experienced in handling cases involving sexual assault by doctors and other medical personnel. If you have a been a victim of sexual assault by a doctor in a hospital or medical office, or if you know someone who has, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com