Updated: Oct 9
By Wright Gazaway - KATU2 ABC - 05.10.2023 [USA] - [Alvin Prasad]
A now-suspended physician assistant at OHSU became the first person charged under a new Oregon state law meant to prevent sexual abuse by medical professionals.
Prosecutors sought the new charge from a grand jury after KATU Investigates asked if the doctor was charged for alleged behaviour at work. Lawmakers created a new felony sex crime when they passed Senate Bill 974 in the last session.
The legislation went into effect June 7 and makes it a crime if the medical professional, “subjects another person to sexual contact and falsely or fraudulently represents to the other person that the sexual contact serves a legitimate medical purpose.”
Alvin Prasad is accused of sexually abusing a patient during an exam in late July - accused of unlawfully touching the woman’s genitalia.
A grand jury first indicted Prasad for sexual abuse in the second and third degrees. In late August, the prosecutor took the case back to the grand jury, which re-indicted Prasad for sexual abuse by fraudulent representation.
This case is the first and only one filed state-wide – so far – under the new felony.
“I think it's important to make sure that these medical providers are held accountable and understand that this is not a loophole any longer available to them,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mark Meek said earlier this year.
The investigation of former West Linn doctor David Farley sparked the new law. As reported in previous KATU investigations, more than 100 of Farley’s former patients accused him of sexual misconduct during exams.
The medical board revoked his license, but a grand jury decided against criminal charges. Clackamas County DA John Wentworth said that was partly due to state law, at the time, providing an exception for unnecessary patient contact that could be part of legitimate medical care.
A KATU investigation found that until the change, Oregon law trailed other states like California that make it a crime for doctors to lie to patients and sexually abuse them. Some of Farley’s patients have said Wentworth could have and should have done more at the time.
However, Wentworth encouraged Sen. Meek to sponsor SB974 and advocated for its passage. Supporters of the bill said it closed the loophole in Oregon’s sex crimes law.
In a statement, the Washington County District Attorney’s office could not comment specifically on Prasad’s case but thanked the Clackamas County DA and the state’s district attorney association for advocating for SB-974.
“Recent legal changes now give prosecutors more tools to hold these offenders accountable,” an agency spokesperson said in part. “Patients are especially vulnerable in the health care setting where they are relying on a trusted professional’s expertise and advice. This crime holds healthcare professionals accountable for taking advantage of these relationships and vulnerabilities.”
Prasad’s attorney told KATU they had no comment, but he has pleaded not guilty. A spokesperson for OHSU said it suspended Prasad right away and revoked his access to facilities and patient information. 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.