After many years of silence, the #MeToo movement opened the door for hundreds of victims to report sexual harassment and abuse. These instances have occurred in sports locker rooms, workplaces, casting couches, and medical environments.
Recent cases have shown that many medical practitioners have ignored their professional responsibilities and committed gross acts of sexual indecency and harassment against their patients. They have faced civil and criminal charges, lost their medical licenses, and some have received lengthy jail sentences. Here are some examples:
Robert Madden, MD
A former gynecologist, Madden was accused of sexually assaulting 17 women while working for Columbia University and its affiliated hospitals. The allegations included suggestive comments about patients as part of the grooming process to see if they would protest. After that, he allegedly perpetrated lewd acts on his patients while they were at their most vulnerable. According to sexual harassment lawyers whose names feature in a USAttorney.com directory, this case, while shocking, is unfortunately similar to many others.
Often, patients do not recognize the early stages of sexual harassment, such as lewd comments and other suggestive behavior. It is typically a precursor to more serious offenses. They worry that if they do report what happened, it will not be taken seriously.
Richard H. Strauss
In recent events, Ohio State University has reopened its investigations into Dr. Strauss for sexual harassment and abuse against its male athletes, including those on its wrestling and football teams. The doctor committed suicide in 2005, but the case remains unresolved as more victims continue coming forward.
Dr. Ted W. Grace, the university’s health services director during Strauss’s tenure, is being scrutinized to determine if he was aware of a pattern of behavior and failed to report it to the relevant university authorities. The Ohio medical board said he knew about at least three complaints by different students and did not report them.
Nassar’s case garnered international attention as he was accused of harassing and assaulting over 150 victims, among which were USA Gymnastics Team members. Many of his victims were minors at that time, and he perpetrated sexually inappropriate acts while some of their parents were present without them knowing. His victims did not understand that his actions were wrong until some came forward and shared their experiences.
Nassar was found guilty of child pornography charges in a criminal court and sentenced to a 60-year federal prison sentence. He has also received 175 and 125-year sentences in Ingham and Eaton Counties, respectively.
Civil cases occur where the victim sues a medical practitioner for what happened, seeking financial compensation for their medical bills (for physical injuries and emotional trauma), mental suffering, loss of life’s enjoyment, physical pain, and earning capacity lost due to the assault.
A doctor’s employer, such as a university or hospital, can also be sued under the terms of vicarious liability, holding the employer responsible for an employee’s actions. However, proving vicarious liability is a steep uphill challenge, requiring a talented attorney’s services and undeniable proof that the employer knew what was happening and hired a doctor anyway or failed to act against them to minimize patient risk.
Like Nassar’s case, criminal charges can be pursued by state or federal authorities. Although prosecutors are determined to see more doctors in court taking criminal responsibility for their actions, this is not always the case.
A guilty verdict in a criminal case is useful in a civil claim as it is powerful evidence. However, a not guilty verdict does not mean a civil case will be unsuccessful. The burden of proof in civil cases is lower than in criminal trials.