White Coat Betrayal: Ending Sexual Assault in Medicine

Doctor in protective gloves giving a female patient injection in hospital.healthcare and medicine
By Dr. Sherry Ross | Originally Published January 24, 2018 on U.S. News Health

‘We cannot tolerate business as usual among sexual predators in the medical field.’

Did you know that when a male doctor cares for a female patient in his office, it’s customary – also known as “standard of practice” – for a nurse or medical assistant to be present when he’s performing the exam?

While the “Pussy Posse” – the Harvey Weinstein’s, David O. Russell’s, Brett Ratner’s and Matt Lauer’s of the world – dominate the headlines, it’s important to add to the conversation instances of sexual abuse that rarely end up on the front page. As a women’s health advocate and practicing OB-GYN for 25 years, I want to point out that some doctors, especially male gynecologists, pediatricians and anesthesiologists and psychiatrists, have raped, fondled and molested patients of all ages. Finally, the conversation is getting started bacause of Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar. He’s the former team doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics, and he was sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography (37,000 images!) charges. His sentence has yet to be handed down to him for the 10 counts and growing of sexual molestation from former members of the U.S national gymnastics team and Michigan State softball players.

I’ve heard story upon story about sexual misconduct from my patients, including inappropriate touching and sexual misconduct during their gynecologic exams when they were young women. The doctor-patient relationship and unspoken trust is the primary principal to our health and wellness, and experiences like these have a long-term negative effect on a woman and the way she takes care of her physical health during her lifetime. Many of these victims have post-traumatic stress disorders that immobilize them indefinitely.

Imagine nervously sitting on an exam room table, completely naked except for a light paper gown. You’re waiting for your gynecologist to walk into the room to perform your first well woman exam. You may be thinking about how you selected this doctor from the list your insurance provider presented so you could take responsibility for your reproductive health and get a prescription for birth control. You may know nothing about the man about to enter the examining room other than the fact that he wears a “white coat,” which inspires your trust, just like Superman’s cape, Batman’s mask or a police officer’s uniform. | | | Next → |

Posted in: Let's Talk Women's Health

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