Doctors are some of the most trusted professionals in the United States. And while many do admirable work, some have taken advantage of and sexually abused the patients who put their faith in them.
There have been more than 2400 reported cases of doctor sexual abuse since 1999 across all 50 states. And out of all the doctors involved in those cases, half of them still have their medical licenses.
The data poses a question for survivors and their loved ones: how do their and other patients’ doctors get away with horrendous mistreatment?
How do some doctors get away with it for so long?
There seem to be a few common trends among doctors who abuse their patients for decades. Here are a few examples:
- They disguise the abuse as a medical treatment: Many have endured sexual abuse from their doctors under the guise of “necessary medical treatment.” Take former doctor Larry Nassar, for example. He used a rare pelvic therapy that involved vaginal insertion to treat numerous ailments in female athletes. Nassar convinced his patients, their families and even other doctors that his treatments were medically appropriate, despite the numerous complaints made against him.
- They insist on being alone with patients: It’s normal for doctors to request privacy with their patients in certain circumstances. However, many doctors with ill intentions are adamantly insistent on patient privacy in all instances. They will often go out of their way to ensure no family members, nurses, medical scribes or support groups are present when meeting with patients. Many of these doctors may also run appointments and perform procedures independently, giving them more opportunities to take advantage of those under their care.
- Their patients can’t always tell the difference between abuse and treatment: Many patients rely on their doctor’s advice. Unfortunately, those abused by their doctors often don’t realize what happened to them, even if they left annual exams or physical therapy sessions feeling uncomfortable.
- They’re in high positions of power: Some doctors who sexually abuse patients have high-profile positions. Some were advisers to government officials. Others worked at well-known universities or provided care for prominent athletes. Their reputations and celebrity-like statuses enabled some to easily hide their abuses for decades. Others were able to shield themselves from liability by silencing or discrediting survivors. However, as more patients speak up about these experiences, survivors across the country have a louder voice and a larger platform for holding their abusers accountable.
Patients don’t have to suffer in silence
When patients are subject to sexual abuse at the hands of their doctor, it can erode their trust in other doctors and the medical system as a whole. But when patients take a stand, fight back, and hold their abusers accountable, they can make medical care safer for themselves and the people around them.
If you or someone you love faces sexual abuse from a trusted medical professional, an experienced, compassionate and encouraging attorney can guide you towards seeking the justice you deserve.