While an 18-year-old was sedated at her dentist's office, she was left alone with a nurse anesthetist long enough for him to sexually assault her. Paul Serdula was found out because he took videos as he lifted her clothing and violated her.
She wasn't his only victim. After his cell phone was found hidden under a bathroom sink, where it was pointed at the toilet, authorities discovered videos showing him assaulting other patients at the Marietta clinic and at WellStar Cobb Hospital, where he also worked.
Today, the Georgia Supreme Court will consider whether the dental clinic should be liable for Serdula's assault of the 18-year-old. After she sued the clinic, a jury held it responsible and awarded her $3.7 million. She claimed the clinic failed to properly supervise him or to monitor her while she was under anesthesia.
The case is among several around the country in recent years that may define the responsibility of health care facilities to supervise their medical staff to reduce the risk of sexual abuse and uphold standards of patient care, the AJC reported in examining the issue of sexual abuse by doctors.
An appeals court last year narrowly upheld the ruling against the dental clinic. It found that Serdula sedated the teen at an unnecessarily deep level and for two hours more than necessary. "This not only rendered her a more vulnerable target, but also constituted a violation of the standard of care and placed her at an unnecessary risk of medical complications, which fortunately did not materialize," the appeals court said in its decision.
In its appeal to the state Supreme Court, attorneys for the clinic argue that it had no reason to suspect that Serdula was a threat to patients. They also argue that the clinic should not have been solely liable for Serdula's crimes against the teen. Her attorneys say the clinic's multiple acts of medical negligence created the opportunity for the attack on the teen, according to a summary provided by the Supreme Court's public information officer.
Serdula is serving a life sentence after being found guilty of 34 charges, including sodomy, aggravated child molestation and sexual assault of a person in custody. The charges involved assaults of 19 females, most of whom were unconscious at the time. The youngest victim was 12. But prosecutors said he may have had scores of other victims.
Already, WellStar has settled lawsuits filed against the Cobb hospital by five patients Serdula assaulted there. The victims, including women giving birth by C-section, accused the hospital of failing to properly supervise them in the operating room.
Read more about similar lawsuits by clicking here: http://doctors.ajc.com/hospitals_sex_abuse_lawsuits/
In its investigation, the AJC found scores of cases around the country involving sexual assaults of sedated patients. Read about some of the cases by clicking here: http://doctors.ajc.com/doctor_sex_abuse_sedated/