Last week, we reported on the case of a doctor who was suspended for sexual misconduct with patients. The case was disturbing, detailing the doctors inappropriate touching and comments to female patients and employees. Unfortunately, the problem of sexual abuse by physicians is more common than we’d like to believe. A recent report has uncovered thousands of cases of physician sexual abuse across the country.
The doctor-patient relationship requires trust. Patients expect their doctor to be professional, especially during a physical examination. When a doctor touches or examines the patient’s body, they should be acting responsibly and not treat the patient as a sexual object. Unfortunately, some doctors take advantage of their special position, which can result in sexual abuse and medical malpractice.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution released a report on their investigation into physician sexual abuse. Nationwide, the report found more than 3,000 still practicing doctors had been disciplined after being accused of sexual misconduct.
In one case, a doctor examining a patient placed his mouth on her genitals, telling the patient, “it was so beautiful. I couldn’t resist.” Another doctor asked a patient who was injured in a sexual assault if she liked to be tied up and urinated on during sex, telling the patient that he was being sexually aroused. Other reports include unnecessary genital exams, doctors exposing themselves, and fondling female patients.
Unfortunately, these types of encounters occur in doctors offices across the country. In many cases, the doctors are allowed to keep their medical licenses and continue practicing even after admitting to the sexual abuse. Victims included babies, children, adolescents, elderly women, drug addicts, and survivors of sexual abuse. Some of the violations occurred when the patients were sedated.
The advocacy group Public Citizen conducted a similar study of physician sexual misconduct, and found that two-thirds of doctors with strong evidence of sexual misconduct had not been disciplined by medical boards. “We believe there’s a lot of under-reporting,” said Azza AbuDagga, a researcher with Public Citizen.
In many cases of physician sexual abuse, the patient is unaware of the inappropriate conduct, or is fearful of reporting the abuse. Patients may be too ashamed to report the violations, or blame themselves for what happened. They may also have a higher risk for developing psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, or PTSD.
Laura Palumbo, a spokesperson for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center found the report concerning. “It is astounding that, at the systemic level, there seem to be conditions where sexual abuse is allowed to happen and physicians aren’t held accountable,” said Palumbo.
If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a medical mistake, or you are unsure whether medical negligence may be involved, Gilman & Bedigian team is ready to help. We are fully equipped to handle the complex process of filing a medical malpractice claim. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of medical malpractice litigation experience, will focus on getting you compensated, so you can focus on healing and moving forward.