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Sexual Harassment

South Carolina Sexual Assault Attorneys Handling Claims Against Medical Professionals

Holding doctors, therapists, nurses, and others accountable

Patients have the absolute right to expect that their physicians and health providers will do no harm. They need to be able to trust their doctors so they can get the medical or psychiatric help they need. Medical practitioners who violate that trust must be held accountable.

At McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC, our South Carolina sexual assault lawyers understand the legal and ethical lines that physicians and other health professionals should not cross. We demand compensation for your injuries, your pain, and your emotional trauma. If you’ve suffered a sexual assault at the hands of a medical professional, our attorneys invite you to contact us for a confidential consultation about your legal options.

What types of doctors are committing sexual assault in South Carolina?

Sexual assault charges and complaints are not confined to just family doctors or physicians at hospitals and medical practices. Complaints have also been registered against:

  • Anesthesiologists
  • Pediatricians
  • Chiropractors
  • Cosmetic surgeons
  • Dentists
  • Home health aids
  • OB/GYNs
  • Nurses
  • Nursing home staff
  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists and therapists

Any health care professional, from a specialist to a technician, may wrongfully cross the line between patient care and sexual assault or abuse.

Sex assault in the medical field – a nationwide scandal

The Atlanta Constitution recently conducted an extensive study of sexual misconduct in the medical profession. The documents it examined found “disturbing acts of physician sexual abuse in every state. Rapes by OB/GYNs, seductions by psychiatrists, fondling by anesthesiologists and ophthalmologists, and molestations by pediatricians and radiologists. Victims were babies. Adolescents. Women in their 80s. Drug addicts and jail inmates. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse.”

The report noted that many doctors aren’t disciplined for assaults because victims are “intimidated, confused or embarrassed. They fear that no one will take their word over a doctor’s. Colleagues and nurses stay silent. Hospitals and health care organizations brush off accusations or quietly push doctors out, the investigation found, without reporting them to police or licensing agencies.” Prosecutors plea bargain charges. Medical boards give doctors second chances.

The ways in which physicians and others engage in sexual assault

There are many ways the doctors, nurses, and others may commit a sexual assault. The most “serious” accusations involve rape and penetration, but any nonconsensual sexual relation – including touching, kissing, touching genitals or breasts – is criminal sexual conduct under South Carolina law. Doctors and other medical professionals often use the same sorts of tactics to assault their patients, including:

  • Committing sexual abuse while a patient is under anesthesia
  • Performing unnecessary vaginal examinations
  • Engaging in acts of self-gratification in front of patients
  • Exposing themselves to patients
  • Taking photos or videos of examinations of the genital area
  • Using physical or chemical restraints to keep a patient from moving

Making lewd or inappropriate comments about patients’ bodies, attempting to seduce patients, or engaging in sexual relationships with patients – even patients who have consented – may all be grounds for legal action.

What are my rights as a patient when seeing a doctor?

Patients should understand they have rights when in the doctor’s office:

  • Exams should be conducted in private rooms
  • Doctors must respond truthfully to all questions you ask
  • Patients can ask to be examined by a doctor or professional who is the same sex as the patient
  • Patients generally, except for surgeries, have the right to have a relative or a friend in the examining room with them
  • Physicians must respect patients’ religious rights – such as avoiding asking to remove religious items – unless medically necessary
  • Patients have the right to expect that they will undress in complete privacy and will only be asked to remove the least amount of clothing possible

When are medical providers liable for sexual assault?

Civil litigation is often necessary in medical sexual assault cases, especially when the medical board doesn’t do its job and discipline physicians accused of assault and misconduct. Individual and class-action lawsuits send a strong message to the medical community that sexual assault can cost doctors and other liable parties millions of dollars, from civil damages and punitive damages.

Sexual assault and abuse in the medical field can  also considered medical malpractice. There are standards for proper behavior that doctors should know based on their profession, medical board ethics, and medical standards. Any medical provider who conducts unnecessary exams of the genital or anal area, or undertakes unwanted touching which is not medical necessary or sexually assaults a patient should be held accountable for this improper conduct with a patient.

In addition, the medical practice and hospital that employed the health provider may be liable if they failed to properly investigate a physician’s professional background (including any prior misconduct) before hiring them. There are general protocols that hospitals should follow to protect against the likelihood of sexual assault, including a disciplinary process, so they’re not a threat to other patients.

Common signs of sexual assault and abuse

Patients who suffer sexual abuse from a physician may experience any or all of the following symptoms and behaviors:

  • Anxiety, anger, and depression
  • Drug or alcohol dependency
  • Fear of being treated by other doctors
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Inability or difficulties with normal intimate relations
  • Physical scarring and bleeding
  • Sexually transmitted infections

Many patients who suffer sexual assault by a doctor or health professional are never the same after the incident. Some may require long-term mental health support and care.

Consensual sex with patients is neither ethical nor legal

Generally, doctors who wish to have a consensual and romantic relationship with a patient should immediately recommend that the patient be treated by another doctor, so there’s no doubt the patient is getting the best care possible, and to avoid any violations of ethics laws. Even when both parties consent to a relationship, it is not healthy for patients to date their doctors for many reasons, including:

  • A patient, especially mental health patients working with psychologists, may believe that sexual relations or contact is part of their therapy. This violates the concept of informed consent.
  • Patients need their doctors to give an objective analysis of their condition and their prognosis. Romantic medical partners may be more likely to hide negative news.
  • Patients are less likely to get a second medical opinion if they’re involved with their physician or healthcare professional.

Romantic relationships between doctors and patients generally violate medical society protocols at the local, state, and federal levels. This will subject any medical professional to liability for any relationship with a patient.

Read More: McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC Files Sexual Abuse Lawsuit against Former Pediatrician at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital

If you were sexually assaulted by your doctor, call our South Carolina lawyers today

The attorneys at McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC, understand the trauma and fear victims of sexual assault experience. Our South Carolina sexual assault lawyers understand that financial compensation never makes victims emotionally whole. However, strong settlements and jury verdicts can help victims achieve justice and hold wrongdoers accountable. We provide a safe and secure environment for you to discuss your needs with an attorney. If you prefer speaking with a female attorney, just let us know and we’ll arrange it for you. For compassionate help, call 803-327-7800 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment.

Handling a variety of Sexual Abuse and Assault cases

There are many different types of assault cases. No matter the specifics, our attorneys are prepared to help you. We handle cases involving:

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