Doctors and other medical professionals tend to people when they’re at their most vulnerable. Unfortunately, sometimes professionals in positions of power abuse their patients’ trust. Doctor sexual assault is a form of medical malpractice that affects thousands of people every year. But survivors do not have to deal with assault trauma on their own. If you are a survivor of doctor sexual abuse, Hodes Milman, LLP can help you receive compensatory damages to aid in your path to recovery.
What is Doctor Sexual Assault?
Doctor sexual assault is a form of medical malpractice that violates a patient’s personal rights, the law, and the American Medical Association’s (AMA) code of ethics for physicians. Doctors are held to a higher standard of conduct than most other professions through the Hippocratic oath. One of history’s oldest binding agreements, practitioners take this oath after graduating from medical school and swear to serve the health and well-being of their patients. Doctors guilty of sexual assault violate their Hippocratic oath. Though it’s not legally binding, its moral tenants can be found in the AMA’s rules against patient abuse.
Forms of sexual abuse by doctors on patients include:
- Inappropriate or non-consensual physical touch
- Unwelcome sexual remarks and questions that make patients feel uncomfortable
- Performing unnecessary exams not pertaining to their specialty or the reason for the appointment
- Taking advantage of patients who are unconscious or under the influence of medication
Who Can Be Held Liable for Medical Sexual Assault?
Doctors are not the only health practitioners who can be guilty of sexual assault. Other possible liable parties include:
- Rehab specialists
- Any hospital staff (anesthesiologists, part-time care workers, etc.)
Guilty parties may either be held liable as the assailant or as a negligent party who fails to report an incident of doctor sexual abuse. Parties who attempt to cover up an incident of abuse or do not handle the claim responsibly can be accused of medical malpractice. Liable parties often attempt to deny their part in an assault and even blame the patient. Survivors should know that in any case, they are not responsible for the actions of their offenders.
Recovering From Sexual Assault Trauma
Recovering from an instance of inappropriate doctor behavior is a challenging process. Sexual assault is traumatic, and the time it takes to heal varies from person to person. Survivors may have grapple with the trauma of their doctor sexual assault for years. Thankfully, there are a number of ways they can find peace and empowerment after such an experience.
Opening up to a trustworthy friend or family member is an important part of the recovery process. It can feel scary opening up at first, but confiding in a trusted loved one can provide the support and empathy the survivor needs to come to terms with the incident. Survivors can also reach out anonymously through a crisis hotline.
A suitable therapist can also help them process their trauma. Therapy provides a safe space for survivors to recover and restructure their lives in a healthy way. Those who are uncomfortable with one-on-one sessions could sign up for group or online therapy instead.
Survivors of medical sexual abuse can claim general damages to compensate for the emotional harm they have incurred as a result of their health practitioner’s actions. These can include:
- Post-traumatic stress
- Loss of enjoyment in previous hobbies or interests
- Loss of enjoyment in intimacy with a partner (loss of consortium)
Assault survivors can also claim special damages, which are financial costs incurred as a result of their experience. These include:
- Medical bills
- Prescription medication
Survivors may delay in reporting the assault due to the social stigma associated with sexual assault. Many refuse to acknowledge their abuse due to the following misconceptions:
Lack of public knowledge — People are often unaware that sexual abuse can occur in a medical setting.
The attacker was not physically violent — Attackers do not have to be physically abusive (hitting, physically restraining their victims) in order for a situation to be deemed sexual assault.
The patient did not say “no” — Survivors of sexual assault often do not retaliate out of shock or fear of violence. Sadly, many believe that not saying “no” is equivalent to consent.
Assault only happens to one type of person — Sexual assault affects people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities.
These false ideas can lead survivors to believe their case isn’t worth reporting, which is simply not true. If a medical practitioner’s actions cause a patient physical or emotional harm, that patient can rightfully report the incident and file a claim. The statute of limitations has a time barrier for filing, so it’s important to act as soon as possible so as to not miss the deadline.
Systematic Sexual Abuse
Doctor sexual abuse is almost never an isolated incident. Offenders may victimize many patients over a period of time, which is referred to as “systematic sexual abuse.” Many survivors are afraid to speak up for fear of not being heard or believed. Take the case of Larry Nassar for example, former USA Gymnastics national team doctor and convicted serial child molester. Nassar was able to abuse hundreds of girls because he was allowed to be alone with them and used his clientele’s young age and athletic aspirations against them.
Cases of systematic abuse don’t happen without the help of negligent parties outside the offender. Several parties at Michigan State University, Nassar’s main place of work, were aware of and complacent about his behavior. Only when Nassar’s victims spoke out against him was he sentenced for his crimes and MSU fined nearly $500 million in damages and settlements to hundreds of his victims.
Consequences for Defendants in Sexual Assault Cases
Reporting an offender can help uncover other incidents and prevent more from happening in the future. It can also prompt the liable healthcare institution to tighten its policies on assault and other misconduct, effectively ending the cycle of abuse.
Pursuing a lawsuit against the liable party will help ensure they receive the punishment they deserve. Consequences for doctor sexual assault include substantial fines. Offenders also lose their medical licenses, prohibiting them from practicing.
Contact Hodes Milman, LLP Today
Doctor sexual assault is a frightening experience, but there is hope for survivors. If you or a loved one has been hurt by doctor sexual abuse, we at Hodes Milman, LLP understand what you are going through. We are determined to help you get justice.
Daniel M. Hodes has earned over 50 jury verdicts, arbitrations, and negotiated settlements in excess of 1 million dollars. He has recovered over $100 million in damages on behalf of his clients, including an incredible $5.3 Million jury verdict for a 39-year-old male in a medical negligence case. Jeff A. Milman is our firm’s resident authority on medical malpractice. He speaks frequently for a number of professional organizations on medical and medical-legal topics.
Hodes Milman, LLP is dedicated to securing the justice you deserve and the compensation you need to heal. Consult with a member of our team today at no cost or obligation. Contact us here to receive a free case review, or call us at (949) 640-8222.