AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Signs a doctor may be a sexual predator


For seven days, young women who were sexually violated by former doctor Larry Nassar have confronted him in a Michigan courtroom about his despicable acts.

His victims -- more than 150 young gymnasts and dancers -- trusted him. Most were too young to recognize that the former USA Gymnastics and University of Michigan doctor was abusing them in the guise of medical treatment.

Wednesday, Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. He already had been sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges.

They weren't the only ones exploited. Thousands of other doctors across the country have been accused of sexually violating patients, the AJC found last year in a national investigation. Some physicians violated scores of patients before they were stopped. The worst had hundreds of victims. You can read about some of the other offenders here: http://doctors.ajc.com/many_alleged_victims/

Often, patients were victimized while doctors pretended to do legitimate medical exams. Among the cases the AJC found were ones where a doctor performed dozens of unnecessary Pap smears a year on a patient; where children were abused when their parents were in the exam room, and where even women trained as rape crisis counselors were assaulted.

Confused or embarrassed, many patients, like Nassar's victims, stayed silent for years. When victims did come forward, the AJC found that medical boards often gave offenders a second chance and did not report potential criminal acts to police.

How can you recognize when a doctor is sexually abusing patients in the guise of exams and stay safe? These are things doctors should never do:

  • Deliberately watch a patient dress or undress or help a patient undress, unless the patient is incapable of doing so
  • Fail to provide draping or gowns during exams
  • Examine or touch genitals without use of gloves. Nassar's victims said he would penetrate them with ungloved hands while he was seeing them for various injuries.
  • Make sexual comments about a patient's body or underclothing; make sexually demeaning comments; or comment on potential sexual performance
  • Solicit a date or romantic relationship with a patient
  • Perform an intimate exam or consultation without clinical justification or without explaining to the patient the need for it
  • Conduct an intimate exam in an unusual manner, such as conducting a breast exam from behind the patient; leaving both breasts exposed; or ordering the patient to assume positions to expose the patient's genital or rectal areas, without clinical justification
  • Request details of sexual history of sexual likes or dislikes when that is not clinically indicated for the type or exam or consultation
  • Touch breasts, genitals or any sexualized body part for any purpose other than appropriate exam or treatment or when a patient has withdrawn consent
  • Encourage the patient to masturbate in the presence of the physician.

Changes in laws in every state also can help protect patients from dangerous doctors. Read about changes needed in your state here: http://doctors.ajc.com/states/

 

 


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Norder leads a team of investigative journalists