On one hand, there is an emergency physician who, by some accounts, had a “sex addiction” and was accused of drugging intoxicated females and then groping their breasts.
On the other hand, the females were so “incapacitated” that they were “unable to resist” or presumably to even yell for help when the physician was doing these things.
I don’t know all the facts, so I can’t comment upon the merits of the case or upon the jury’s verdict.
From a patient’s perspective, it is pathetic to think that a physician would even consider doing things like this.
From a physician’s perspective, it is scary that the accusations by patients rendered “incapacitated” by alcohol or medications could cause you to be investigated by the state, get dragged through a trial, and possibly be thrown in prison for 10 years. This whole propofol side effect issue hits closer to home, now.
I have been involved in one investigation where a physician was accused of physically assaulting a patient by pushing her to the ground. The patient was upset that she didn’t get the medications she wanted and she and her husband filed a formal complaint against the physician the day after her emergency department visit. Fortunately, in that case, the patient was already being verbally abusive to the emergency department staff and security was called. Security witnessed the entire “event” from behind the curtain in the room while the door was open and confirmed that the patient was upset about not receiving medications and that the patient was never pushed to the ground.
Another physician with whom I worked was accused of fondling the breasts of women because he lifted their left breasts up to listen to their hearts.
In another incident, I was accused of raping a patient.
An elderly patient fell down a flight of stairs and was complaining of hip pain. I examined her entire body to look for other injuries. I routinely palpate the entire body, including the head, neck, ribs, back, stomach, pelvis, arms, and legs. The woman called administration several months later to complain that I had “raped” her. I had no idea who she even was by that time.
When I heard about the patient’s allegations, I made a copy of her chart, went straight to the police station after work, and reported what the patient had stated. One of the investigators immediately went to the patient’s house and took a statement from her. Her only accusation was that I “squeezed her hips” – which I routinely do during my exam to assess for a pelvic fracture. After talking with the investigator, the patient declined to file a complaint.
So what do you do?
Examine only the portions of a patient where the patient has pain and risk missing an injury? Or fully examine the patient and risk being accused of sexual assault and a jail sentence?
Do we start videotaping all patient encounters to maintain evidence that we didn’t do something inappropriate?
Do we have a nurse follow us into all the rooms as witnesses and take them out of their patient care roles?
And what should happen to people who file false reports?
Scary times for all involved.