A New Bill to End Secrecy Behind Doctor Sexual Assault
Were you a victim of doctor sexual assault?
As patients, we rely on our doctors to provide us with reliable health care in a safe and professional environment. Sadly, many doctors have abused their positions of power, turning unsuspecting patients into sexual targets. Because there is a lack of transparency in the reporting of abuse, doctor sexual assault is more prevalent than many realize. A new California bill will mandate that doctors fully disclose past misconduct or present investigations to their patients, including sexual assault.
Doctor Sexual Assault Makes Headlines
Until survivors of doctor sexual assault came forward in cases that received national attention, it was a relatively unexplored subject. In one case, a USC gynecologist named Dr. George Tyndall was accused of sexually abusing hundreds of student patients throughout three decades. His was believed to be the largest sex crime investigation in LAPD history. Astonishingly, Dr. Tyndall was permitted to practice for 27 years despite numerous complaints about his sexual misconduct.
In another case, USA gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of criminal sexual conduct and child pornography. Over 300 victims have now accused Dr. Nassar of sexual abuse.
“He’s the type of person who knows how to make you want to trust him,” reported one victim. “There’s a reason he’s risen to this place of prominence. And honestly, part of what grieves me so much is that he has everything he needs to be an incredible leader. He has the personality, he has the skill, he has the knowledge, and he’s using that to prey on people. What a waste.”
Dozens of survivors of doctor sexual assault, including those abused by Dr. Tyndall and Dr. Nassar, traveled to Sacramento this year and urged lawmakers to require doctors to fully disclose to their patients about sexual misconduct.
Impact of Sexual Assault on Patients by Doctors
Doctors who commit sexual assault are misusing their power and inherent trust as medical professionals. When a doctor commits a heinous act, victims are left in shatters, confused and afraid by the system they once trusted. Doctor sexual assault can take many forms, but one thing remains the same–it is never the victim’s fault.
Some forms of physician sexual assault include:
- Attempted rape
- Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts
- Penetration of the victim’s body, or rape
- Medically unnecessary photographing of a patient’s naked body or genitals
Force is often used during sexual assault; however, it does not need to be physical. Doctor sexual assault can include emotional and mental coercion tactics. In many instances, doctors may manipulate their patients into believing their sexual advances are medically necessary. This was the case for victims of Dr. Tyndall, who assured his patients his inappropriate photography and sexual touching was for medical purposes.
Doctor sexual assault can leave lifelong emotional scars, triggering conditions such as depression, flashbacks and PTSD. Many survivors turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse, self-harm and eating disorders in an attempt to escape the damaging psychological and emotional effects of the trauma.
Patients Vastly Unaware of Potential Harm by Doctors
Doctor sexual assault has become a growing epidemic. 124 out of 140,000 physicians are placed on probation each year by the California medical board. In California alone, 500-600 doctors are currently on probation for serious violations related to medical care. Even so, doctor sexual assault is largely underreported and many doctors are getting away with their crimes. According to one study, two-thirds of doctors with evidence of sexual misconduct against them had not been disciplined by medical boards.
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 Laura Palumbo, a spokeswoman for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
California law already mandates that patient abuse by doctors is disclosed in an online system, however many patients are unaware of its existence and it is notoriously difficult to use. A new California bill is set to change the way doctor misconduct is disclosed.
Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, explained, “Placing the burden on the public to know about an obscure state government website, have the internet, speak English, find a doctor’s records, then wade through and decipher legal documents about the doctor’s history of misconduct, is the same as sealing those disciplinary records to the public. That’s why disclosure before a patient’s appointment, as required by SB 1448, is so critical to patient safety. Patients will never learn otherwise.”
It is astounding that doctors disciplined for patient sexual abuse are getting a second chance. However, with the addition of the new disclosure bill, patients will finally have the knowledge to choose a safe doctor with confidence.
New Bill Requires Doctors to Notify Patients of Sexual Misconduct
California will be the first state to mandate that doctors tell their patients when they have been disciplined for sexual assault or other patient abuse. The new bill, The Patient Right to Know Act (SB 1448) was authored by Senator Jerry Hill and will require doctors on probation or under investigation for causing patient harm to disclose this to a patient before an appointment. This includes sexual misconduct with a patient, overprescribing, criminal conviction or drug and alcohol use.
Sexual assault attorney Jessica Pride commented on the new bill.
“The Patient Right to Know Act is about patient safety and giving patients the knowledge about the doctor’s alleged sexual misconduct, ultimately giving [them] a choice between whether or not they want to step into the exam room or not. This bill provides them knowledge, as our clients have gone into the exam room completely unsuspecting of their doctors’ history. We have also learned that some of our clients don’t know that their doctors’ sexual misconduct is illegal, so this lets them know what is acceptable and what is not. This bill will let them know who to contact as well as give them the courage to say ‘No, stop.’”
The new bill will go into effect January 1st, 2019.
Help for Victims of Physician Sexual Abuse
If you were the victim of physician sexual assault, we offer our deepest sympathies. Attorney Jessica Pride has represented many survivors of physician sexual assault who have courageously shared their heartbreaking stories. Our legal team is here to listen with a compassionate ear, and offer a helping hand.
Coming forward about sexual abuse can be incredibly difficult, but Jessica Pride will help guide you through the entire process, step by step. All consultations are 100% private and there are no fees unless we are successful in securing your compensation. Find out how Jessica Pride can help you today by calling (619) 516-8166.