You place an enormous amount of trust in doctors and physicians, sharing intimate details about your health and body. Unfortunately, some doctors betray that trust and abuse their power over patients for sexual gratification. Sexual abuse by doctors is an unethical violation that causes severe and long-lasting harm. As a patient, you deserve to feel safe, respected, and cared for. If you have experienced inappropriate behavior, unwanted sexual advances, or sexual contact by your doctor, you may be the victim of sexual abuse. You have rights and there are legal options available for reporting the doctor and pursuing justice. If you were abused in Texas, contact the Austin sexual abuse lawyers at Fletcher Law. No patient should suffer abuse at the hands of the very physicians entrusted with their wellbeing. Recognizing the signs of doctor sexual misconduct and knowing your options for action can help end the abuse.
Warning Signs Your Doctor May Be Crossing Boundaries
Your physician should maintain proper boundaries and conduct themselves professionally at all times. However, some doctors cross ethical lines and engage in inappropriate behavior with patients. Be on alert for these warning signs that your doctor may be crossing boundaries:
• Requests to see you outside of office hours or for social engagements. While building rapport can be part of good care, personal relationships with patients are inappropriate.
• Shares overly personal details about their own life or relationships. Doctors should keep the focus on the patient during appointments.
• Makes sexualized comments or shares sexually explicit details. This behavior is completely unacceptable.
• Performs examinations or procedures that seem unnecessary or make you feel uncomfortable. Trust your instincts—you have the right to a second opinion.
• Keeps inadequate records or does not properly explain health conditions, tests, medications, or treatment plans. This could indicate the doctor is hiding inappropriate behavior or negligence.
• Pressures you to accept gifts, money, or extravagant travel or entertainment. Doctors should not provide or accept lavish gifts or benefits that could influence care.
• Seems "touchy" or rubs, massages or hugs for no medical reason. While some contact may be necessary for examinations or procedures, gratuitous touching is inappropriate.
Do not ignore these warning signs. Report inappropriate behavior to the police, a medical licensing board, hospital administration, or a advocacy group right away. You deserve to feel safe, respected, and receive proper care from your physician.
Red Flags for Inappropriate Behavior During Examinations
During medical examinations, inappropriate behavior by doctors should be avoided. Be alert for these red flags:
Excessive or unnecessary physical contact. Doctors should only touch patients for medical reasons and with consent. Any touching for personal gratification is unethical.
Prolonged or repeated examinations. While follow up appointments may be needed in some cases, excessive exams that seem unnecessary could indicate improper behavior.
Unprofessional comments or questions. Doctors should maintain proper decorum and only ask medically relevant questions. Any sexual remarks, flirting or personal questions are unacceptable.
Lack of gloves or improper draping. Doctors must wear gloves during any examination and properly drape patients to protect their privacy and prevent discomfort. Failure to do so is a sign of unprofessional conduct.
Taking photographs without consent. Doctors should obtain written consent before taking photographs for medical records or other purposes. Photographing patients without permission for personal use is illegal and unethical.
If any of these red flags are observed during a medical exam, patients should report the doctor's behavior to the relevant medical boards and licensing agencies immediately. Doctors take an oath to "first, do no harm" and any deviation from proper conduct should not be tolerated. Patients deserve to feel safe, respected and comfortable in their physicians' care.
When a Doctor's Questions or Comments Seem Too Personal
As a patient, it's important to recognize inappropriate behavior from doctors to protect yourself. Some questions or comments from doctors may seem too personal or make you feel uncomfortable. This could be a sign of misconduct. Be on alert if a doctor:
Asks Questions Unrelated to Your Health
A doctor should only ask questions directly relevant to your medical care. If a doctor asks overly personal questions about your relationships, living situation, or other private matters unrelated to your health, this is a red flag.
Makes Suggestive or Flirtatious Comments
Flirting, inappropriate jokes or compliments, or sexual innuendos from a doctor are unacceptable and unethical. Doctors should maintain proper professional boundaries.
Performs an Unnecessary Physical Exam
Doctors should only perform medical tests and physical exams that are clinically relevant and necessary. If a doctor conducts an intimate exam that does not seem medically warranted, this indicates improper behavior.
Does Not Use Proper Draping Techniques
Doctors must protect patient privacy and modesty during sensitive exams using gowns, sheets, and drapes. If proper draping is not used or you are left feeling exposed, report this immediately.
Makes You Feel Uncomfortable
Patients should feel at ease with their doctor and trust them implicitly. If anything about a doctor's questions, comments, or behavior makes you feel uncomfortable, anxious, or confused, do not ignore these feelings. Seek a second opinion or report the doctor's misconduct to the relevant medical board immediately. Your safety and well-being should be the top priority.
If a Doctor Suggests Keeping Your Relationship a Secret, That's a Problem
Any physician that suggests keeping your relationship or interactions a secret from others is behaving inappropriately and unethically. This type of request should raise serious red flags.
Lack of Transparency
Doctors have an obligation to be transparent in their interactions and relationships with patients. Requesting secrecy immediately violates this obligation and compromises the trust in the doctor-patient relationship. There are no legitimate medical reasons for a doctor to suggest keeping any aspect of your care or relationship private from other physicians or loved ones involved in your care.
Isolation and Vulnerability
Asking you to keep your relationship a secret makes you vulnerable by isolating you from others who could provide support or accountability. Doctors who behave in this way may be attempting to take advantage of you or groom you for abuse without scrutiny from others. No caring physician would subject a patient to this compromised position or risk their wellbeing in this way.
Get a Second Opinion
If your doctor makes this kind of request, do not comply. Politely but firmly tell the doctor their request is inappropriate and that you intend to get a second opinion from another physician. You should also report their behavior to the appropriate medical board or licensing authority. Consider consulting with a medical malpractice attorney regarding your legal options in this situation as well.
While physicians occupy a position of power and trust, that does not give them license to exploit patients or circumvent appropriate care. Any doctor who asks you to keep aspects of your relationship secret is behaving unethically and should face consequences for compromising patient safety and trust in this way. You deserve to feel empowered and supported in your medical care, not isolated or taken advantage of. Speak up and get help right away.
Your Rights and Options if You've Experienced Sexual Misconduct by a Doctor
If you have experienced sexual misconduct, abuse or inappropriate behavior by a doctor, you have rights and options available to you.
Report the Doctor
You should report the doctor to the relevant medical board or licensing agency in your state. They oversee physician licensing and conduct, and have the ability to investigate complaints and take disciplinary action. You will need to file a written complaint detailing the incident(s) of abuse. The board will then review and investigate the complaint to determine if the doctor violated any rules or codes of conduct.
Consult with a Lawyer
Speaking with a lawyer regarding a civil lawsuit can help determine if you have grounds for legal action. Sexual abuse, misconduct and inappropriate behavior by a physician is illegal. A lawyer can advise you on the merits of your case and next steps to potentially filing a lawsuit to recover damages related to the abuse.
Notify the Police
If the doctor's actions constitute a crime, you should report them to local law enforcement. Explain in detail what happened, and the police will investigate further and determine if criminal charges should be filed. Even if the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution has passed, reporting the abuse can still help establish a record of the physician's behavior and aid any other potential victims.
Seeking Counseling and Support
Experiencing sexual abuse by a doctor can be an extremely traumatic event that may require professional support to overcome. Speaking with a therapist or counselor, or joining a support group can help you work through feelings of violation, anxiety, depression or PTSD. Talking about the experience, processing emotions, and learning coping strategies with the guidance of a mental health professional is important for healing and recovery.
While no amount of justice or compensation can undo the harm caused by a doctor's sexual misconduct, taking action and exercising your rights can help prevent future abuse, hold the physician responsible, and aid in the healing process. With the proper support, recovery is possible.
Call Fletcher Law If You Have Been The Victim of Sexual Abuse
If you have been the victim of sexual abuse by a doctor or physician, it is critical that you contact an attorney experienced in medical malpractice and personal injury law immediately. Fletcher Law has successfully represented many victims of doctor-patient sexual abuse and can help you pursue legal action against the perpetrator.
Seek Counseling and Medical Care
The trauma of sexual abuse can be emotionally and psychologically devastating. We strongly encourage you to seek counseling or join a support group to help you work through what has happened. You should also get a full medical exam as soon as possible. Not only will this help ensure your health and well-being, but it will provide official documentation of the abuse which can support a legal case.
Report the Abuse to the Proper Authorities
In addition to contacting our firm, you need to report the sexual abuse to the police and file a complaint with the state medical board. The police will investigate the criminal aspects of the case while the medical board will review the doctor's conduct and license. By taking action on both fronts, you increase the likelihood of preventing the doctor from harming other patients.
Pursue a Civil Lawsuit
Doctors and physicians who sexually abuse patients must face consequences for their egregious actions. A civil lawsuit can provide some measure of justice by holding the doctor financially accountable. You may be entitled to compensation for damages like physical and emotional pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and punitive damages. While no amount of money can undo the harm done, it can help you find closure and move forward with your life.
The attorneys at Fletcher Law will handle your case with the utmost sensitivity, care and confidentiality. We will walk you through every step of the legal process so you know what to expect. You do not have to go through this alone. Please call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Justice and healing are within your reach.