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Sexual Assault As A Form Of Medical Malpractice

April 5, 2017

Healthcare professionals adhere to a code of ethics that govern their practice. In general, sexual relations with clients or patients are against these standards of practice and code of ethics. Different healthcare professions have different standards as to what constitutes permissible consensual sexual contact. Unfortunately, sexual assault is almost always not consensual. This can lead to severe mental anguish in the victim in addition to physical injuries.

The Nassar Case

The now-classic Larry Nassar case proves this point. Prosecutors are at a loss as to how the once-esteemed doctor considers his sexual abuse case as nothing more than a case of medical malpractice. Many of the victims were sexually-abused under the guise of a valid medical treatment.

Female athletes sought medical assistance from Nassar. They believed he could help address sports injuries and body pains. They accused the doctor of inserting ungloved fingers into their intimate body parts. They believed this was a necessary part of their medical treatment.

Do No Harm

When patients seek the professional expertise of a medical doctor, it is always done in good faith. The patient believes that the doctor is the right person to help with his or her ailments. There is trust and confidence in the medical practitioner that he will do everything he can to address the patient’s health problems. The patient believes that the doctor will perform actions that are within the standards of his profession.

Doctors adhere to the principle of nonmaleficence. This presupposes that members of the medical profession should never bring harm to their patients or clients. This often goes hand-in-hand with the principle of beneficence or the need for doctors to do only good.

Hence, patients trust doctors to do only good and not bring them any harm. When a doctor performs a procedure that brings mental anguish or physical injury to the patient, this is a clear violation of the principles of beneficence and nonmaleficence.

Medical Malpractice and Sexual Assault

Medical malpractice is always taken in the light of negligence. As a general rule, negligence must satisfy four very important points or elements. These include duty, breach, cause, and harm.

In a case of sexual assault in the medical or healthcare profession, it is the duty of the professional not to engage in sexual contact or any other activity that may be construed as sexual. The second element follows from the first. This talks about the breach of that duty.

In the Nassar case, it is the doctor’s duty to provide medical treatment that is commensurate with the health problems presented by the patient. The obvious breach here is the digital manipulation of body parts that do not represent a significant part of the health problem presented.

Because of this breach in the doctor’s duty, it caused mental anguish, emotional distress, and physical injury to the patient. These are different from the physical and psychological manifestations of the original health condition presented by the patient.

Patient Vulnerability

Sexual assault within the context of medical malpractice can be quite challenging. This is true for patients who may not have an idea as to the procedures that are appropriate for their medical complaints. They may not be aware that it is not right to insert an ungloved finger into body parts that have nothing to do with the original medical problem.

There is also the issue of high regard placed on medical professionals. People think of doctors as individuals who are experts in their chosen professions. As such, they put their trust in these professionals knowing that they will be in “good” hands. The main issue here is that healthcare professionals can exploit such a power dynamic. This puts the patient at a disadvantage.

What Victims of Sexual Assault in Medical Malpractice Can Do

If you believe that you’re a victim of sexual assault by a medical professional under the pretense of a valid medical treatment, you should approach a medical malpractice lawyer immediately. Your attorney can help build the case so you can seek proper redress for the wrongdoing done to you.

Damages related to such cases can be both economic and non-economic. It is also possible that your spouse or partner can also claim for loss of consortium or loss of companionship and society.

It is important to understand that such cases are often emotionally-charged. This is why getting the services of an experienced medical malpractice attorney is crucial. A lawyer can provide objectivity in the building of your case. This is important if you want to preserve your individual rights as a person and as a patient.

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About the Author

At the Law Offices of Top Gun DUI Defense Attorney Myles L. Berman, our experienced team of DUI / Drunk Driving defense lawyers are dedicated to aggressively defending people arrested for DUI.