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What is Inappropriate Touching By a Doctor?

May 02, 2024
Last updated May 13, 2024
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Visiting a doctor is rarely an easy experience. Most people are typically anxious at the doctor’s office, particularly during invasive check-ups and procedures. We all want a doctor who is compassionate, skillful, and experienced; what nobody expects is a provider who violates doctor-patient boundaries by inappropriately touching a patient. 

Unfortunately for many people who experience doctor abuse, it is difficult to initially realize whether a specific touch was inappropriate. Sometimes, an inappropriate doctor may put a patient under general anesthesia before violating their sexual boundary. If the lines have been blurred and you are unsure whether you have experienced potential abuse, then it might be time to consult an attorney who can help you go over what happened.

At Edwards Henderson, we understand the seriousness of your situation, and we know how important privacy is to you during this time. Our team of expert attorneys can help you unpack what happened to determine whether you might have been inappropriately touched by a doctor. 

Key Takeaways

  • An inappropriate doctor might abuse their position as a healthcare provider to exploit patients for sexual gratification.
  • Inappropriate doctor touching can lead to physical injuries, emotional distress, and trauma responses.
  • It is not only against the law but also a civil wrong, meaning you can seek financial compensation through a civil lawsuit.

What is Inappropriate Touching?

It is sometimes difficult to determine whether there was inappropriate touching by a doctor in a hospital setting. Generally, we understand that doctors who examine sexual or private parts will likely be physically touching them to as part of their medical evaluation. But often, it may not be very clear as to whether a doctor’s touch was appropriate or not.

A “bad touch” is any type of touch that is meant to sexually arouse you or sexually gratify someone else. An inappropriate doctor may disregard medical protocols and may even cause pain or injury to their patient. Here are some examples of inappropriate doctor behavior: 

  • Your doctor makes sexual comments and tries to sexually arouse you: There should never be any type of sexual element in the discussion. Your doctor may ask you questions about your past sexual history, but they cannot insinuate sexual interest or touch your private parts for longer than necessary. 
  • Your doctor denies having any chaperone present in the examination room: You can request a doctor to have a chaperone present in the exam room, and under most circumstances, this should be allowed. A sexually abusive doctor may try to keep you alone in the room so they may violate your sexual boundaries without a witness present. 
  • Your doctor uses general anesthesia even though it is not needed and you wake up suspicious: An inappropriate doctor may conduct a medical procedure using general anesthesia so they can commit sexual acts without the patient’s knowledge. If you discover inexplicable bruises in your body after being put under general anesthesia, it may be time to investigate the reason. 
  • Your doctor touches an intimate part of your body even though it is not medically necessary: It is unlikely that a doctor will touch any intimate part of your body without medical necessity, for example, an ENT doctor examining your legs is questionable behavior that must be fully explained by your healthcare professional. 
  • Your doctor asks you to disrobe and reveal parts of your body not necessary for your specific exam: Your doctor should not make you undress or reveal parts of your body that are not necessary for your specific exam or condition.
  • Your doctor’s actions feel inappropriate, depending on the situation: Since doctor-patient interaction is highly contextual, you may want to rely on your instincts to understand whether something feels right or wrong. For example, if your gynecologist removes their gloves and touches your private parts in a sexual manner, it may be time to call for help. 

How to Talk to a Child About Inappropriate Touching

We cannot always control or limit our children’s interaction with other people, some of whom may turn out to be predators. For instance, even if parents do their best to ensure that their children are not under the care of a healthcare provider without their presence. However, there are exceptions such as surgery or long-term hospitalization that necessitate children to spend long time without parents or caretakers. This is why it is important to understand how child groomers operate so you may detect child predator warning signs and prevent or stop your child from being sexually abused. 

It is also a good idea to have an open conversation about “good touch, bad touch” with your younger child. Methods like asking for your child’s consent before hugging them or touching them allows children to understand that nobody should touch them without consent.

What is Not Inappropriate Touching by a Doctor

Inappropriate touching by a doctor depends on the situation and context of the touch. For instance, if you are pregnant, then your doctor may order a trans-vaginal ultrasound, which may require insertion of a medical device. This type of touch is considered medically necessary and not sexual in nature. However, such a procedure could potentially be considered sexual contact if your doctor orders an unnecessary test or makes lewd remarks or sexual advances during a procedure.

In situations where touching is necessary, your healthcare provider should explain what they are touching and why. If they do not explain their actions, you may request them to do so. Doctors, dentists, dental assistants, nurses, and all other medical staff have a legal duty to provide for a patient’s care, which means they can be held liable for inappropriate touching.

Is Inappropriate Touching Assault?

Sexual assault is defined as intentional and nonconsensual sexual contact or behavior. Sexual assault can take many forms, including rape, threats of sexual nature, attempted rape, or unwanted and inappropriate sexual touching. Sexual battery, on the other hand, involves direct physical contact of a sexual nature with another person without that person’s consent. In the context of a doctor’s office, a doctor who threatens to commit sexual act or inappropriately touches a patient will be responsible for assault. 

Is Inappropriate Touching a Crime?

Under the sexual battery definition, unwanted touching done for non-medical reasons can be considered a crime. Nobody should use a patient’s body for their sexual gratification. Doing so can cause a great deal of trauma to the patient who trusted the medical provider to do their job. Many sexual battery and sexual assault survivors might also find it triggering to visit doctors in the future, particularly for invasive treatments and procedures. 

Sexual assault is a crime as well as a civil wrong. Breach of doctor-patient boundaries can also be construed as professional misconduct and subject to disciplinary action. If you want to understand how to report a doctor, you may consult a doctor sexual assault lawyer in your area. A practicing attorney specializing in sexual assault will be able to pick up the signs of assault and help you understand whether you have the legal basis to file a lawsuit against doctor, hospital, or healthcare facility.

How to Report a Doctor for Inappropriate Behavior

If you are wondering, “How do I report a doctor for unprofessional behavior”, here are some helpful steps:

  • Write down everything that happened in detail: (include how you felt, any inappropriate conversation, etc.)Before you report the conduct, it is a good idea to analyze what happened and write down everything you remember and felt, including any inappropriate conduct or remark.
  • Take photos of any bruises or physical evidence: Start building up documentation and evidence to prove your claims. If you experienced any physical injuries, especially while conscious, then consider taking photographs or getting your injuries examine from a trusted healthcare provider.
  • Note any signs of physical and emotional distress: If you experience emotional distress, like flashbacks, then discuss your symptoms with a licensed therapist who can help you unpack your trauma.
  • Contact a doctor sexual assault attorney for help: A doctor sexual assault attorney can explain your legal options and help you file a complaint with the clinic or the hospital. They can also advise whether you need to report the doctor to your state medical board for illegal/unethical practice. 

Inappropriate Doctor Stories

Sexual abuse in healthcare is a serious concern in our country. Doctors are professionals who are held to very high standards, so it is shocking when stories of doctors caught sexually abusing patients surface in mainstream media. 

Dr. Larry Nassar

Dr. Larry Nassar is one of the most infamous doctors who admitted to multiple instances of sexual abuse against Olympic gymnasts during their training. He also pleaded guilty to possessing and attempting to posses images of child pornography. During his 2018 trial, over 150 women came forward with stories of the abuse they endured under the guise of medical treatment. Sadly, many of the women told the court that they had informed various coaches, trainers, and others about the ongoing abuse, but no action was taken and no reports were made for decades. Many of his survivors were aged 13 – 16 years. Most notably, Simone Biles, one of the most decorated US gymnasts in history, came forward as one of Nassar’s survivors. 

Dr. Robert Hadden

Dr. Robert Hadden is another disgraced doctor who was accused of sexually abusing countless patients over a 20-year period while working as an OB-GYN. Dr. Hadden’s abuse was also perpetuated against minors. Multiple survivors have stated that they experienced inappropriate touching, sexual contact, and even oral sex from the doctor. Over 200 former patients have settled lawsuits against Columbia University where Hadden was employed.

Dr. Gurvindra Johal

Dr. Gurvindra Johal was arrested and charged with three counts of criminal sexual contact after allegedly inappropriately touching two patients while working at an urgent care center in New Jersey. 

Dr. Howard Setzer

Dr. Howard Setzer accused of inappropriate touching by a patient who claimed that he touched her private parts while performing an exam for post-knee surgery. Dr. Setzer has also been accused of sexually abusing other patients who came in for pain treatment. 

Can I Sue a Hospital for Negligence?

Generally, a hospital has a legal duty to provide for the care and safety of the people in the building. The hospital you visit for your consultation or treatment must ensure that all its physicians, nurses, surgeons, staff, etc. are thoroughly screened. If you report an inappropriate doctor to the hospital board, they should investigate the matter and take appropriate action. If the hospital was negligent in responding to sexual abuse allegations or hired a known sexual offender, then they could potentially be held liable for negligence. Further, under the vicarious liability doctrine, hospitals can also be held liable for an employee’s sexual assault or battery when the employee was acting on the clock. 

If you are considering whether to sue a hospital for sexual abuse, then it might be a good idea to speak to a hospital sex abuse lawyer before getting started on your claim.

Are Doctor Inappropriate Touch Cases Difficult to Prove?

When you have experienced unwanted sexual contact at the hands of an inappropriate doctor, you expect others to believe and receive your truth. Sadly, these cases are very complex and difficult to prove. Doctors are held to a very high standard of care, and they are often viewed as reputable until proven guilty. That said, it may be challenging to establish your wrongful touch claim, especially in instances where a gynecologist inappropriately touched your private parts, you were unconscious when you were touched, or you do not have any physical marks from the inappropriate touch.

The best thing you can do in such situations is to consult a sexual abuse lawyer who understands how these cases work and can help you secure the right evidence and build up a compelling case.

You Do Not Have to Struggle Alone: Contact a Doctor Sexual Assault Attorney

Doctor sexual abuse can be a deeply distressing experience. At Edwards Henderson, our attorneys understand the challenges behind filing a doctor sexual assault lawsuit while dealing with the pain and trauma from such crime. You can rely on our knowledge and expertise to help you navigate the complexities of your case as well as the justice system, so you may move forward with your life. 

Let us help you secure justice. Schedule a case review with our firm now to get started.

Article Sources

  1. Who is Larry Nassar?
  2. Simone Biles, other former gymnasts seek $1 billion from FBI for mishandling Larry Nassar sex abuse case
  3. Former patients give gut-wrenching testimony in OBGYN sex abuse trial
  4. NJ Doctor Accused Of ‘Inappropriately Touching’ Patients In Newark

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