When we visit a physician, dentist, or health care practitioner, we trust that they will act professionally. Too many times, this trust is not reciprocated, or is abused when these practitioners engage in sexual misconduct.
Sexual abuse by licensed professionals in health care is a severe and unconscionable violation of professional ethics and California law. Patients are entitled to rights and protections to deter this misconduct which include:
- Ending the examination at any time if you feel uncomfortable by asking the provider to stop.
- Asking for the presence of a nurse, friend or relative in the examination room.
- Having a private area to change clothing.
- Undressing to reveal only the parts of your body being examined and not staying undressed longer than necessary.
- Asking for a practitioner of a different gender except if this is impracticable in an emergency.
- Having your questions answered.
- Having your religion respected and being allowed to wear religious jewelry and garments which do not prevent you from receiving care.
- Having an interpreter, language access line or having a family member or friend translate for you if needed.
- Being advised if a procedure or examination will be painful and having it stopped upon your request.
At times, a pelvic, vaginal, breast, rectal or teste or examination of other private areas is needed. However, these should be medically necessary.
The provider may:
- Use gloves
- Explain each part of the examination as it occurs
- Ask you to inform them if something feels uncomfortable or wrong
- Ask you to undress the part of your body under examination
- Respond that they are the same gender as you if asked
Unacceptable conduct includes:
- Refusing to answer questions or telling you to be quiet
- Examining private body parts without wearing gloves
- Refusing to explain what they are doing and why they are doing it
- Refusing to have another person in the room
- Requesting that you undress parts of your body that are not being examined
- Asking questions about sexual activity that are unrelated to treatment and make you feel uncomfortable
Talk to your children about what they may expect during a doctor’s visit or examination. Explain why the doctor may touch them in certain places and which touching is acceptable.
Speak to them after the visit. Encourage your children to tell you if they were uncomfortable or if anything suspicious occurred.
Take any of these steps to report suspected abuse:
- Call local law enforcement
- Contact the medical facility, hospital or practice where the abuse occurred
- File a complaint with the appropriate California professional licensing board
Attorneys can assist victims of sexual abuse by licensed health care professionals seek compensation and other relief. Lawyers can help hold violators accountable.