The $190 million settlement between more than 8,000 female patients and Johns Hopkins Hospital was finalized Sept. 19th, but the cash settlement will do nothing to restore the loss of trust experienced by some women.
The Levy Case
Dr. Nikita Levy, a Johns Hopkin’s gynecologist, was investigated after a co-worker alerted authorities about a pen-like camera Levy carried while examining women and girls. Investigators searched Levy’s home and found 1,200 videos and 140 images of female patients’ genitals. It was discovered that Levy had been illicitly filming and photographing his patients with a miniature camera when they were undergoing gynecological exams. 62 of the females photographed were children.
Lead attorney Jonathan Schochor, in an interview, stated the settlement is likely the largest single-perpetrator sexual abuse case in history.
From the article: “This result is truly historic, groundbreaking, unprecedented and extraordinary,” Schochor said. “These women didn’t run. They were brave. And now they’re recognized as a very, very serious force in this city and all cities across the United States.
“We proved that this conduct will not be tolerated,” Schochor said, “and that their damages will not be trivialized.” http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/09/19/6132782/judge-to-hear-objections-to-hopkins.html?rh=1
Some Positive Steps Were Taken but Distrust Remains
Some positive steps were taken in the presentation of the Levy case. The perpetrator was caught, the victims were awarded a large sum of money, their suffering was acknowledged, they were referred to as being “brave”, and it was ‘proven’ that the doctor’s conduct would “not be tolerated”.
Some of the victims were even given an opportunity to have their voices heard. Maria Lennon stated that although she felt vindicated, her nightmares weren’t “going to go away”. Lennon asked “Do I need to take a security guard to the gynecologist? Maybe I do.”
Some women revealed that Levy had asked them to strip naked on the examination table and would conduct pelvic exams without gloves. He would ask assistants to leave the room, and would schedule unnecessary examinations.
Everlena Gaylord, 48, and her three daughters were patients of Levy’s for years. Gaylord said that although she is happy about the settlement, she is still in the healing process and stated her “trust is completely broken with doctors, male and female. I just have to take it one day at a time.” http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/east/2014/09/22/255062.htm
Even though the case seems straightforward in some ways, there are unanswered questions that the details of this case present. For instance: What is being done to prevent this from happening to other women in the future? How are women to know if they have been filmed by their doctor in the past? What assurances do women have that their doctor is not filming them when they are exposed and vulnerable? As Lennon asked, do women need to bring a security guard along for pelvic exams?
The Levy case stands out because of the sheer volume of women abused, but it is one among many disturbing medical sexual misconduct cases that have hit mainstream media. However, mainstream media is limited in its ability to alert women as many cases of sexual abuse may go unreported and undetected.
Sanda Rogers, University of Ontario law faculty, in her discussion of failed promise of reform regarding sexual abuse by health care professionals, states: “Patients report abuse. The evidence is there, as is the evidence that abuse is seriously under reported. The legislation provides the health disciplines with the tools necessary to respond to the abuse perpetrated by some members. Instead, the College of Physicians and Surgeons and other Colleges, have failed to ensure that complainants are provided with the support necessary to assist them to survive the process of complaint, investigation and hearing. The drop off rate on complaints by the CPSO, and by other Colleges, is such that almost no complaints and few complaints of sexual misconduct and abuse proceed to a full hearing. Each stage of the process favors the professional and undermines the complainant.” https://forwomenseyesonly.com/2013/04/19/sexual-abuse-under-guise-of-health-care-presents-barriers/
Make Women Less Vulnerable in Medical Settings
The current situation in women’s health care leaves some women vulnerable to abuse at the hands of medical providers. Some women may depend on health care providers for a variety of health related needs, and this may increase women’s vulnerability in health care settings. For instance, some health care providers may be coercive and withhold health care and medications when women refuse intimate exams and screening tests. Some solutions that might help to make women less vulnerable include:
- Educating women about their right to informed consent for intimate exams. Many women remain unaware of the fact they have a right to informed consent for pelvic exams and/or pap tests.
- Educating doctors about the need for transparency. Some doctors fail to offer women information about the potential harms and benefits involved in screening and examinations.
- Put protocols in place to help doctors ensure their patients are aware they have a choice in regards to examinations and screening.
- Ensure women always have a choice in deciding who may, or who may not, have access to their bodies.
A male doctor’s honest point of view: https://forwomenseyesonly.com/2012/09/09/the-other-side-of-the-speculum-a-male-doctors-point-of-view/
Tips on preventing sexual misconduct by doctors: http://sexualmisconductbydoctors.com/importanttips.aspx
What can happen when women say “no” to male doctors: https://forwomenseyesonly.com/2012/10/17/what-some-male-doctors-do-when-women-say-no/
Sexual abuse in women’s health care: https://forwomenseyesonly.com/2013/04/19/sexual-abuse-under-guise-of-health-care-presents-barriers/
Pap test coercion: https://forwomenseyesonly.com/2014/01/09/pap-test-coercion-getting-more-attention/
Informed consent missing: http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2009/11/informed-consent-missing-pap-smears-cervical-cancer-screening.html