By Dignity4Patients - 02.10.2023 - [IRELAND] November 2022, prosecutors filed sex crime charges against a Minnesota plastic surgeon who lost his license after state regulators ruled that he molested several female clients during appointments at his clinic.
That same year, a Florida cosmetic surgeon was arrested on two counts of sexual battery in Naples, Florida. The charges stemmed from allegations brought by two female clients. The doctor later died by suicide.
The year before, a plastic surgeon in California was charged with sexually assaulting two of his female patients while he was treating them in his office.
When patients go into any type of medical facility or clinic, they expect that they will be safe. Practitioners and healthcare providers owe a duty to patients to create a safe space for them to be treated. Unfortunately, several cosmetic surgery offices and personnel have failed in this duty.
A 50-state examination by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) found that only one state—Delaware—“has anything close to a comprehensive set of laws protecting patients from doctors who commit acts of sexual abuse.” An AJC investigation also uncovered “450 cases of doctors who were brought before medical regulators or courts for sexual misconduct or sex crimes in 2016 and 2017.” In nearly half of those cases, the doctors remained licensed to practice medicine. What Is Cosmetic Surgery Sexual Assault? Cosmetic Surgery sexual assault is a form of medical malpractice that violates a patient’s rights and the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) code of ethics for physicians.
Forms of sexual abuse by doctors on patients may include:
· Unwelcome sexual remarks
· Inappropriate questions that make patients feel uncomfortable.
· Inappropriate or non-consensual physical touch
· Performing unnecessary exams
· Taking advantage of patients who are unconscious or under the influence of medication.
The Federation of State Medical Boards categorizes sexual violations by health practitioners into two categories:
Sexual misconduct: This may include watching the patient undress and making inappropriate sexual comments or performing examinations on a patient’s genitals without informed consent.
Sexual assault: This refers to sexual activity or contact without consent, including when the patient has been coerced or manipulated or is unable to give consent.
If you are the victim of sexual misconduct or assault, report the misconduct to the doctor’s office, group, or hospital or contact a specialist service like Dignity4Patients for support, advocacy and information on how to proceed next. How Prevalent is Cosmetic Surgery Sexual Assault?
Unfortunately, sexual assault in the cosmetic surgery industry is more common than most people might expect.
According to a 2022 study, “Medicine has the highest rate of sexual misconduct among scientific fields… Within surgery, sexual misconduct occurs at alarming rates, victimising both patients and caregivers. Plastic surgery is one of five specialties most commonly accused of sexual misconduct…”
In an earlier study, researchers examined 101 cases of sexual violations in medicine. They analysed these cases to characterize the doctors, patients, practice setting, kinds of sexual violations, and consequences to the perpetrator.
The results showed that most cases involved a combination of five factors:
· Male doctors.
· Older than the age of 38.
· Were not board-certified.
· Practiced in non-academic settings.
· Always examined patients alone.
Almost all cases involved repeated abuse of multiple victims that continued for more than a year. In 19 percent of sodomy cases, the abuse occurred with a chaperone, parent, nurse, or other individual in the room with the patient. The data also indicated that professional breaches during medical training predicted future breaches as a physician.
The researchers noted that a “striking feature of these cases is that they can occur without obvious ‘red flags’…” In all cases except rape, the perpetrators showed no outward signs of a personality disorder. The incidences occurred in both solo and larger medical practices alike, and they involved patients who were particularly vulnerable as well as patients who exhibited no special vulnerabilities other than being a patient.
Based on these results the researchers recommended the following:
· Sexual boundary training courses should be a standard part of training in the medical profession.
· Medical students should be taught the prevalence of sexual abuse by physicians.
· Medical students should be encouraged to be vigilant in reporting suspected abuse.
· Medical Students should be trained on best practices for responding .when abuse is observed.
· Chaperones should be formally trained on how to respect privacy while providing appropriate oversight.
To overcome the difficulty in obtaining data on cases of sexual abuse in medicine,
· Medical facilities should be required to report whenever patients are sexually abused by doctors.
· Board board documents & Complaints handling of sexual assault cases should be open access.
Patients Are Afraid to Speak Up.
The study above also found that in many cases, patients were reluctant to say anything about the abuse. Some suspected inappropriate behaviour but were too surprised or confused to speak up. Other patients ignored inappropriate remarks and touching until the doctors’ behaviour escalated to sexual assault.
Sometimes there is a high level of shame associated with this type of assault. The patient may worry that it was their fault somehow, or that speaking up may expose them to harm.
Patients are never at fault for inappropriate sexual abuse by physicians. But if a patient is sexually harassed, abused, or assaulted, they need to be empowered to report that abuse. Cosmetic Practitioners Who Assault Patients Must Be Held Responsible.
Too often, doctors who are accused of sexual harassment and abuse are allowed to continue to practice medicine.
In its investigation, the AJC found that 2,400 doctors were publicly sanctioned by medical authorities after being accused of sexually abusing patients in the USA. Researchers also found that many violations never came to the attention of state regulators.
There are many possible reasons for this. Some victims are afraid to say anything. Colleagues and nurses often stay silent. Hospitals and healthcare organizations brush off accusations or quietly push doctors out, often without reporting them to the police or licensing agencies.
The AJC found that physician-dominated medical boards “gave offenders second chances.” Prosecutors also dismissed or reduced charges so doctors could keep practicing and avoid sex offender registries.
Doctors and the institutions they work for must be held responsible for their actions or inactions. Victims who stand up to report these crimes can be part of the solution. What Do I Do If I’m Sexually Assaulted By A Cosmetic Surgeon?
If you think you have experienced sexual abuse by a medical professional, you have the following options:
· Call 999 to report the assault to An Garda Siochana.
· Contact the hospital, doctor’s office, or facility where you experienced the abuse and officially report it.
· Report the incident to a medical licensing board, such as the Irish Medical Council
· Speak to someone who is trained to help. Call the Dignity4Patients on 041 – 984 3730
· See another doctor that you trust for a medical check-up and collection of physical evidence, include photos of any injuries (bruises, lacerations, tears).
What should I record if I’m Sexually Assaulted By A Cosmetic Surgeon?
Document whatever you remember of the incident in your own words. Getting everything down in writing may trigger strong emotions, but it will help you recount the event in the future when you need to.
You’ll want to record:
· Date and Time of the incident
· The location where the incident occurred.
· Any details about the perpetrator you can remember.
· Any details about the physical assault.
· Details of anyone else was present or if saw anything or left for any period of time.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can contact Dignity4Patients, whose helpline is open Monday to Thursday 10am to 4pm.