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May 15th, 2014

Medical Provider (Hospital) Liability for Sexual Assaults

Sexual abuse is a serious problem, one that pervades every profession. Sexual abusers can be found everywhere. The medical profession is certainly not exempt.

There have been several recent reports of sex abuse or sex assault in a medical provider setting, i.e., by doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, etc. For instance, earlier this year, a Philadelphia area psychiatrist was arrested and charged with molesting several patients, at least two patients were minors.

Related: Sex Abuse by Medical & Mental Health Professionals in Pennsylvania

How Sexual Abuse by Medical Providers is Perpetuated

The reality is that people who commit sexual abuse or sexual assault do not do so on a whim. This is especially true in situations in which professionals like teachers, priests, and medical providers are the perpetrators. Rather, sexually abusive individuals usually engage in a similar pattern of behavior. Employers and colleagues often notice such behavior and may perpetuate abuse by failing to take appropriate action.

Like with sexually abusive teachers and priests, doctors and nurses generally do not engage in sexual assault or abuse out of the blue. Instead, over time, the behavior becomes increasingly aggressive. Initially, such individuals engage in seemingly innocent behavior, such as inappropriate language or touching over the clothing. As time goes on and the individual is not caught, the behavior escalates.

Related: Sex Abuse by Doctors and Medical Professionals – The Culture of Silence

Sexual abusers are emboldened by secrecy of victims, as well as secrecy of employers and colleagues who again, often do nothing when they see or notice any range of problematic behavior, from sexually inappropriate language up to and including sexual abuse.

For instance, at a hospital, an employee doctor or nurse has a reputation for making sexually inappropriate comments about patients. Over time, the doctor or nurse starts touching patients inappropriately. Finally, the doctor or nurse commits an act of sexual abuse or assault on a patient. Another doctor notices and makes an unofficial report by verbally telling a supervising employee. That supervising employee does nothing with the unofficial report. Rather than investigating the report, the supervising employee instead does nothing, effectively sweeping it under the rug. As time goes on, the doctor or nurse continues the pattern of behavior and sexually assaults more patients.

In this situation, there is a strong argument that had the supervising employee of the hospital taken appropriate action, the sexually abusive doctor/nurse may not have abused subsequent patients.

Related: Sexual and Physical Abuse in Pennsylvania or New Jersey Institutions and Hospitals

Common Claims Made in Lawsuits Involving Medical Provider Sexual Abuse

Victims may have legal recourse in cases where a doctor or medical provider engages in a pattern of sexual abuse at a hospital, professional office, etc.  Common claims made in such cases include:

  • vicarious liability for the perpetrator doctor’s assaultive conduct (respondeat superior and agency),
  • breach of legal duties to report misconduct to government agencies,
  • negligence in maintaining credentialing and retaining the perpetrator doctor,
  • failing to supervise and monitor medical care,
  • failing to maintain safe and adequate facilities, and
  • failing to maintain standards and procedures for patient safety.

If you or a loved was sexually abused or assaulted by a medical professional such as a doctor, nurse, etc., please call our office for a free legal consultation. Click To Call

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