Most physicians in the United States do not commit or condone sexual violence. According to the American Medical Association (AMA) between 5 and 10 percent of psychiatrists reported some type of sexual contact with patients and it was assumed that doctors in other fields was about the same. Sexual abuse by doctors is often underreported because many women feel uncomfortable coming forward. A low reporting rate indicates that the prevalence of sexual assault by physicians may be higher than what is known.
The doctor-patient relationship is extremely important to one’s health and well-being. We put our trust in our doctor. If that trust is abused or exploited, we are emotionally scarred. The AMA states that some doctors have a “one-time” incident but most “use or exploit their patients’ vulnerabilities for their own gratification”.
Sexual misconduct by doctors falls into three main categories. All of these are considered unethical by the AMA.
- A romantic relationship with a former or current patient.
- Gaining sexual access by indicating it is part of treatment.
- Sexual assault.
Most sexual offenders, including physicians who sexually assault patients, exhibit a pattern of abusive behavior over time that is largely unreported and often dismissed by others. Following are some “red flags” to look for when identifying a physician who is sexually assaulting his/her patients. These “red flags” may be noticed by a patient’s family, fellow physicians or other medical staff.
- Violating medical protocol regarding patient privacy and safety.
- Being secretive about patient care.
- Reacting in an angry, defensive manner when questioned about treatment of a patient.
- Strongly discouraging the patient to seek a second opinion or leave the practice.
- Sharing or asking about personal or intimate information that is not medically relevant.
If you suspect that a physician has sexually assaulted you or someone else, trust your instincts. Trust your gut if something doesn’t feel right. Patients do not owe their physicians any allegiance. If you feel that a second opinion would be in your best interest, leave and go elsewhere. Always write down any interaction with your physician that felt abusive or unethical. Include the date and time of the appointment. If you feel like you have been violated by your physician, seek support and assistance. Remember, you are not alone. You do not need or deserve to suffer in silence.
Feel free to call me for legal assistance if you have questions.
As a partner with D'Arcy Johnson Day, Andrew D'Arcy has been involved in some of the nation’s most high-profile cases and investigations. His practice includes serious automobile accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death and product defect cases. Andrew has been personally responsible for numerous multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts on behalf of his clients. He has been recognized by his peers as an "AV" rated attorney, the highest possible rating given by Martindale-Hubbell publication. Andrew has been named a "Super Lawyer" by New Jersey Monthly magazine each year consistently since 2013.