When you seek medical attention from a dentist, physical therapist, doctor, hospital or any other medical professional, you go to them trusting they have your best interests in mind and will look out for your welfare. It is expected that when you enter their office; they will treat you with respect and ensure your mind or body will be given the proper medical attention it needs to keep you healthy.
When a medical professional breaks this trust by committing sexual abuse, it is a serious violation of their medical ethics as well as a criminal act that deserves legal recourse. When you have an appointment with a medical professional, there are specific actions you should not only expect, but you deserve when paying for their medical services.
What You Should Receive During a Medical Appointment
When you go in an exam or treatment room with a medical professional, it is your legal right to end the treatment at any time. If for any reason the actions of the person treating you makes you feel uncomfortable, you need to tell them to stop immediately.
The treatment or exam should be completed in a private room, or have a curtain pulled to provide you with privacy during the appointment. You should also be given a private area to remove any clothing necessary for the medical professional to complete their exam.
During your exam or treatment, you should be able to ask the physician or doctor about the procedure they are performing. They should tell you what is being done and why, and they should answer right away and truthfully.
While performing any procedure, the medical professional should alert you to any treatment that will cause you pain. If the pain is too severe, it is your right to tell them and ask them to stop immediately.
During an exam or treatment, it is your right to ask for someone to join you in the room. You are allowed to ask for a nurse, family member, or even a friend to be present during your treatment.
If your exam or treatment is going to involve the examination of specific areas of your body, you should only have to undress the parts of your body the doctor will need to see. You should also be allowed to redress as soon as the exam is completed.
If your religion requires you to wear specific garments or jewelry, the medical professional should not ask that you remove them to receive their care.
Treatments of private areas are sometimes more comfortable when completed by someone of your own gender. It is your right to ask for an examiner of a different gender if this would make you more comfortable. This request should be placed when making an appointment if possible, as it may delay your treatment if asked for at the time of the exam.
If you do not speak the same language as your examiner, they should make every effort to have the information you need to be given in your language. They may have to ask for an interpreter which can be provided through a language access line, or they should have an on-site interpreter who can translate all the information.
What is Considered Sexual Abuse by a Doctor During an Exam?
There are areas of your body that are considered ‘private,’ but these areas often have to be examined by a medical professional for you to stay healthy. These exams should be limited to medically necessary steps, such as:
- It is acceptable for the medical examiner to tell you about the procedure they are performing and keep you informed as to what tools are being used, if any, and why they are doing the procedure.
- Medical professionals should always wear gloves when treating or examining your private areas.
- If at any time during your exam, you begin to feel uncomfortable with the procedure, it is your right to tell them to stop immediately.
- It is your right to request a same-sex examiner if you are not comfortable with one of a different gender.
- The medical professional should only request you uncover the area of your body they need to treat or examine.
There are some requests or actions that are unacceptable for a medical professional to do during a vaginal, pelvic, breast, teste, or rectal exam that could be considered sexual abuse:
- The doctor or medical professional should never tell you to be quiet and refuse to answer your questions regarding what they are examining on your body.
- A medical professional should never exam any area of your body without wearing gloves.
- You have the right to have someone in the room with you during an exam, and the medical professionals should never refuse you this right.
- You should never be asked to unclothe any areas of your body that are not being treated or examined.
- You should never be asked about your sexual activity that does not relate to your treatment, or that makes you uncomfortable to answer.
When inappropriate sexual contact or sexual abuse occurs with a medical healthcare provider, medical malpractice has occurred, and a patient has the right to file a civil action. Talk to the specialists at Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm on how you can seek justice if sexual abuse has happened to you by someone in the medical field.
The specialized training of a physician and your vulnerability provides the healthcare professional with a powerful dynamic that can be exploited. The damage that can occur from such sexual abuse can be non-economic such as causing you emotional distress, or it can also be economical by costing you money for therapy, medications, or your loss to earn a wage. Sexual abuse can also cause your spouse to suffer from loss of companionship or loss of consortium.
Sexual abuse by a healthcare professional breaks trust and should be reported to the authorities. Filing a police report will allow you to pursue your complaint through the criminal justice system as well as your right to file a complaint with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. This physician or healthcare professional should not be allowed to practice medicine and continue the abuse on other patients, and you deserve justice for the unspeakable horror they have inflicted on you. Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm is ready to stand beside you in this emotional time and help you receive justice and compensation for this crime.
California Law has Zero-Tolerance for Doctor-Patient Relationships
The California courts, AMA (American Medical Association), and the MBC (Medical Board of California), all hold physicians to a higher standard than others. They have a zero-tolerance for any form of an intimate or sexual relationship between patients and their physicians. It is considered unethical and illegal, without exception, for a physician to engage in these forms of relationships regardless of whether or not it exists through mutual consent.
The AMA policy states that should an intimate relationship develop between a physician and their patient, the physician is expected to terminate the professional relationship immediately, although this may not protect them against unethical behavior allegations.
California Disciplinary Action Against Physician Sexual Abuse Numbers are Small
Given the size of California’s practicing physicians, the number of disciplinary actions is small. These numbers may relate to sexual abuse victims from a medical professional who is less likely to come forward than sexual abuse victims in general. However, with a closer look at the medical board records, it suggests many complaints filed by victims do not result in formal accusations against the doctor.
Attorneys familiar with board policies state these low numbers are due to false accusations, medical professional sexual abuse is hard to prove, and that doctors can hire experienced lawyers who aggressively fight the charges which lead to deals and delays. For this reason, anyone who has been sexually abused by a medical professional needs to contact Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm, so you have an aggressive attorney working with you to seek the justice you deserve.
What is the #MeToo Movement?
The #MeToo Movement followed sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, an American film producer, who in 2017 was dismissed from his company when more than 80 women accused him of sexual abuse. An American social activist began using the phrase in 2006 and then in 2017, Alyssa Milano used the phrase on Twitter, calling for people to use this phrase and give people a sense of magnitude when facing sexual abuse.
The #MeToo Movement got rolling stronger in 2017 because of Harvey Weinstein, and victims of sexual abuse in the locker room, church, workplace, and the medical exam room are speaking up and demanding justice. It is becoming clear more than a few bad acts are happening in the medical industry than just a few the media has focused on. When one study looked at these actions, they found some systems enable sexual abuse by physicians and others are trying to stop it.
At Columbia University, 17 women sued to claim there was no intervention from Robert Hadden MD, who sexually abused them during office visits. At Ohio State, similar suits were filed against the University for ignoring their allegations on Richard Strauss MD and his sexual abuse against members of the wrestling team. The Grand Jury investigated allegations against George Tyndall at the University of Southern California. Tyndall allegedly sexually abused more than 200 women during their exams. These are some of the high profile cases that have received media attention. There are thousands of more sexual abuse cases happening throughout the country on victims who have not been recognized by the media, but who deserve justice against their doctors.
The State Medical Boards put sexual abuse or misconduct into two categories. One category is sexual impropriety and can include examining genital areas without gloves, making inappropriate comments, and watching a patient undress. The other category is sexual violations or abuse and occurs when a doctor engages in physical, sexual contact with their patients such as sexual intercourse, kissing, or touching any sexualized body part for anything other than part of the exam. Sexual abuse in this category also includes offering drugs in exchange for their patient’s sexual acts, masturbating in front of a patient, or encouraging or forcing a patient to masturbate in front of them.
During one analysis of 100 physicians who sexually abused their patients, it was found that all of the doctors were men over the age of 39 and who worked in private practices. These physicians were born in the United States, and typically, most of them were not board-certified, and those who were, remain certified while the board investigates them.
Why Sexual Abuse Can be Hard to Identify Against a Doctor
What makes sexual abuse by a medical professional so questionable is often the victim is not abundantly clear what is medically relevant for an exam or procedure, and where there is a violation of standard care. When doctors are invested in satisfying their sexual impulses, they have a physical advantage, which puts them in a position where they can blur lines between what is sexual abuse and what is appropriate behavior.
It is supposed to be a simple process. You go to the doctor because you are worried about a health issue, or perhaps it’s to have an annual physical exam. You go to the doctor as they are supposed to ensure you stay healthy or offer you a solution to a medical condition. This situation puts you in a dependent posture for a physician, which at times makes a patient feel as they do not have the option of saying ‘no’ to a doctor’s touch or request. Some of the doctors who have admitted to sexual abuse say it is this vulnerability that encouraged their sexual actions.
Sexual abuse cases many times leave the victim feeling guilty, thinking they may have encouraged the behavior, or allowed it to happen and are inhibited from reporting the incident. This type of abuse can also lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, which leaves the patient to avoid, distrust, and even fear the medical profession. Some patients will no longer go to a doctor or at least to a gynecologist for an annual exam for fear of the incident repeating. This consequence is serious and could potentially endanger a patient's health and possibly put their life at stake.
Sexual Abuse in the Medical Profession
Sexual, mental, and physical abuse by the medical profession happens every day in the United States. There is no medical profession that is immune to this crime. Sexual abuse of clients or patients is committed by:
- Nursing home employees
- Psychologists or mental health therapists
- Massage therapists
The problem with these sexual abuse crimes is that the victim is reluctant to step forward. There is fear of embarrassment, fear of retribution, and shame all mixed in with emotional problems arising from the incident such as depression and anxiety.
Patients in nursing homes or mental health hospitals may not be able to communicate the abuse, and perpetrators often choose victims who are vulnerable or unable to verbalize the abuse. At times when patients do step forward, their claims are not taken seriously and fall on ears of those who will not follow through with the allegation. There is a culture of silence in institutions such as medical facilities and hospitals.
Legal Rights for Victims of Sexual Abuse by Doctors
Victims of sexual, mental, or physical abuse by a member of the medical profession have the right to seek justice against their abuser. This justice can be sought not only in the criminal system but in the civil one as well. Most survivors of sexual abuse from their medical healthcare provider do not realize they can seek justice in two ways:
- File a Civil Lawsuit
Civil law is the branch of the law and is a court-based process to allow one person to seek compensation from another person. Compensation is determined and awarded by the courts for the harm that resulted from the actions or inactions of the accused to the victim.
Under California law, victims of sexual abuse can seek justice and compensation through the civil claim process. All who have been a victim of sexual violence or abuse can file a civil suit for damages, including:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages
- File a Police Report
Criminal charges are a formal accusation by a government authority, generally the prosecution, charging a person with a crime. The criminal document contains one or more criminal charges, which can take several forms such as complaint, information, and indictment. Crimes filed as criminal charges are a form of wrongdoing and behaviors that society would view as offending, not just the victim, but the sensibilities of society as a whole.
There are not enough victims of physical and sexual abuse from those in the medical professions that have received compensation for the deep personal injuries they have suffered, mentally, emotionally, and physically. The attorneys at Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm intend to change that and are ready to fight for justice of those who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their doctor.
Victims of sexual abuse by a medical professional are entitled to file a claim for compensation against not only the doctor but also the entity, business, corporation, etc. which contributed to the abuse like the:
- The mental health facility
- Halfway home
- Group home
- Nursing home
California Laws Protect Sexual Abuse Victims by Doctors
Governor Jerry Brown recently signed the Patient Right to Know Act, which requires doctors to notify their patients if they are on disciplinary probation for sexual misconduct. California is the first state in the country to require their doctors to inform patients when they are placed on probation for harming their patients.
There is an online registry put out by the Medical Board of California which lists the physicians on probation and why they are under disciplinary action. According to the new law, doctors on probation after July 2019 are required to alert their patients about their status before an appointment.
The law refers to disciplinary actions for sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, improper prescribing, drug abuse, or if they have been accused of a crime that hurts a patient in any manner. Up until now, doctors have only had to inform their insurance company, hospitals they work through and clinics when they have been placed on probation, but have not had to inform those most at-risk- patients.
Of the estimated 140,000 licensed doctors, there are approximately 130 put on probation by the Medical Board every year. This law has been in progress for more than three years and the push from the gymnasts who were sexual abuse victims of Dr. Larry Nassar, and the bill which cited Dr. George Tyndall who sexually abused women at a campus health clinic, helped to put it in place finally. It is now being recognized that patients need to know whom they are putting their trust in and if they are at risk. When a patient is not aware of the disciplinary actions, it makes them vulnerable to sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse by medical professionals is becoming more common, or perhaps victims are now feeling more confident they can come forward and report their abuse. When clinics and hospitals are more worried about their bottom line than patient safety, bad things can happen behind closed doors. Sexual abuse is a crime, and doctors or other medical professionals are just as guilty as any other criminal and must be prosecuted by the law.
Sex crimes in California can be punished under both federal laws as well as those under the California legal system. These crimes can fall under either a felony or misdemeanor classifications depending on the factors involved in the case. California has removed the statute of limitations on criminal cases, which is what sexual abuse is considered.
Find Help Near Me for Doctor Sexual Abuse Attorney
Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm is ready to help you through this challenging and emotional time. Call us today at 310-359-9451 and talk with one of our specialists who understands how difficult it is for you to step forward and seek justice and compensation you deserve. We have experienced staff who understands and is committed to helping you reclaim your life.