It’s common for anyone undergoing a major medical procedure to have some serious concerns. However, for most, these worries are focused more on the possibility of an adverse medical outcome and not on the risk of being sexually assaulted. Yet, multiple patients have alleged that a prominent New York gastroenterologist engaged in sexual misconduct during the course of their treatment. Some of these events, in fact, were videotaped by the doctor himself.
If you have been sexually assaulted by a doctor, it is important you understand your rights and what you can do to pursue them. All medical professionals are held to a high standard, and there can be no question that these allegations, if substantiated, are a clear violation of a doctor’s duty to their patients. Patients who experienced sexual abuse at the hands of a physician may be able to pursue a civil claim against the doctor, which, if successful, can provide them with meaningful compensation for what they’ve been put through. These claims also send a strong message to other healthcare workers that this type of conduct will not be tolerated.
How Common Is Sexual Abuse by Doctors?
The American Medical Association (AMA) unequivocally denounces any sexual assault or misconduct by a physician against patients. The AMA’s Code of Ethics maintains that sexual relations between patients and their current or former patients are unethical and unacceptable, as these relationships can fundamentally alter the physician-patient relationship by exploiting patients’ vulnerability. Similarly, sexual or romantic relationships between a physician and a former patient may be unduly influenced by the previous physician-patient relationship.
However, determining how frequently doctors engage in sexual abuse can be challenging because, largely, these crimes go unreported. For example, one study found that fewer than 10 percent of victims report sexual misconduct. Thus, one of the only ways these instances come to light is through physician self-disclosure. According to one source, the percentage of physicians self-reporting sexual contact with patients ranges from three to 12 percent of male physicians and one to four percent of female physicians. And, approximately 7.1% of all sanctions issued from 1994 to 2002 by the Federation of State Medical Boards were for sexual misconduct.
Authorities Investigate Sexual Abuse Claims Against GI Doctor
Amidst growing accusations, a New York City hospital gastroenterologist has been charged with sexual offenses against former patients and dating partners. The 50-count indictment alleges that Dr. Zhi Alan Cheng has a disturbing and methodological pattern of drugging and sexually abusing patients at New York-Presbyterian Queens Hospital and raping three other women in his Queens home. This current string of charges comes after the physician was indicted for allegedly raping a female acquaintance in his Queen apartment.
What Are the Allegations Against Dr. Cheng?
These sexual abuse claims against the New York doctor have shaken the medical community and raised serious concerns about patient safety and trust in the healthcare system. According to a press release by the Queens District Attorney’s office, an investigation revealed electronic devices depicting the physician sexually abusing women at New York-Presbyterian Queens and his home. While investigators were able to identify a number of the victims, investigators report that there are additional victims whom they have not identified yet. Additionally, the evidence shows other women being abused in hotel rooms or residences in New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Thailand.
These allegations underscore the crucial need for transparency, accountability, and oversight in healthcare settings. Patients who suspect they have experienced sexual assault at the hands of their healthcare provider should take immediate steps to preserve evidence and hold these individuals and entities responsible for their heinous conduct.
Lawsuits Against Hospital Systems for Sexual Assault
Patient dignity, safety, and welfare are crucial in the physician-patient relationship. As such, the AMA urges hospital systems and regulatory agencies to implement and enforce strict policies and procedures to prevent sexual assault. While the AMA advocates for swift investigation and resolution of sexual assault incidents, the impacted patient can experience long-term physical, psychological, and emotional trauma. Preventing and addressing sexual assault should remain a priority for the healthcare institutions responsible for the health of the community it serves.
Dr. Cheng’s patients allege that New York-Presbyterian Queens has a history of ignoring patient complaints. One of the physician’s alleged victims claims that she informed hospital staff that Dr. Cheng injected her with an unknown substance, performed a purportedly unnecessary rectal exam, and assaulted her while unconscious. According to reports, Dr. Cheng was not terminated or suspended after the incident.
Victims of sexual assault may be able to sue a hospital or healthcare institution for sexual assault by a physician. Sexual assault claims against doctors typically allege medical malpractice, vicarious liability, or corporate negligence. The type of claim and available damages hinges on the facts and circumstances of the case, including the strength of the victim’s evidence and their attorney’s experience in handling these sensitive and highly complex matters.
Recoverable Damages in Sexual Assault Claims
Patients can recover various compensatory and punitive damages against physicians for sexual assault. Recoverable damages might include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In addition, punitive damages may be available in cases where the physician’s conduct was grossly negligent, malicious, or involved a significant degree of immorality. Although no amount of money can adequately compensate victims for this fundamental infringement of their health and safety, compensation can help them facilitate recovery while holding the at-fault parties responsible.