Physician Sexual Misconduct
Physician sexual misconduct is an egregious betrayal of the public trust. It plays on the power dynamics between a physician and a patient. The physician exploits their position of power and the patient’s trust in them to satisfy themselves sexually at the expense of their patient. Sexual misconduct is split into two categories. The first is sexual impropriety, which is behavior, gestures, or expressions that are sexually demeaning and disrespect a patient’s privacy. The second is sexual violation, which involves physical sexual touching, even if it is consensual or initiated by the patient. An estimated 5-10% of all physicians have had sexual contact with patients. The vast majority of cases involve a male physician and a female victim, although cases of female physicians and male patients certainly exist. The true extent of physician sexual misconduct is likely underreported.
These conversations are rightfully being brought to the forefront of legal debate with the recent conviction of Lawrence Nassar, former physician to the USA gymnastics team. Young aspiring athletes were sent to Dr. Nassar throughout their training, many of them with hopes to make it to the Olympic team. For decades, Nassar used his medical treatment to molest these athletes under the guise of treating them for their injuries. The allegations came to light in 2016, when The Indianapolis Star reported that complaints involving more than 50 coaches were submitted with no response from officials, two of which involved Nassar. The USA team cut ties with Nassar and his medical license was suspended in 2017 in Michigan.
In July 2017, Nassar plead guilty to a child pornography charge after authorities uncovered over 37,000 videos and pictures, after which he was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison. Over the course of several years, 160 women came forward with abuse allegations regarding Nassar, only 10 of which he has admitted to. One victim was only six years old when Nassar allegedly abused her. On January 24, 2018 Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in state prison for seven counts of sexual assault of minors. On February 5, 2018 he was sentenced to another 40-125 years in state prison for three additional counts. These sentences will run consecutively, and Nassar will presumptively spend his remaining life behind bars. There are likely a large number of victims that have still not come forward.
The focus has since shifted to former employers of Nassar for failing to stop him when they had reason to know of his misconduct. Subsequent suits have been brought against Nassar, Michigan State University, the US Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, and Twistars Gymnastics Club. All of these entities are being accused of turning a blind eye when they had reason to know of Nassar’s abuse. Michigan State University received reports of Nassar’s behavior back in the 1990s, and has agreed to pay the largest settlement for sexual abuse victims ever issued by a university in the amount of $500 million. The entire 18-member board of USA Gymnastics have since resigned.
Authorities are finally stepping up and taking a serious look at these types of allegations. If you have been a victim of sexual misconduct by a physician, you deserve the best legal support available. We understand the sensitive nature of this information and we can help you fight this. We put our trust in physicians, and they deserve to be held accountable when they use that trust against us. We can pursue both civil and criminal charges against your abuser. If you believe that you or someone you love has been subjected to this type of assault, please contact us to set up a Free of Charge Initial Consultation with one of our experienced Boston Sexual Assault Victim Attorneys. Our attorneys are available around the clock – please call us at 617.492.3000 or toll-free at 800.481.6199 or Contact Us Online. All consultations are completely confidential.