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Is the culture of silence contributing to the increase in sexual assault in health care facilities?

  • An Oregon anesthesiologist pleaded guilty to sexually abusing or raping at least 12 incapacitated women in his care. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison, and both he and the hospital that ignored or covered up reports of the abuse will face the consequences of multiple civil lawsuits.
  • A former paramedic is in prison for attempted first-degree sexual abuse after lawsuits uncovered allegations by at least 19 women who said he groped them in an ambulance while they were being transported to Portland hospitals.
  • A nurse is accused of sexually assaulting patients in private rooms in the ER.  He is being charged with various counts of raping, sodomizing, and sexually abusing incapacitated patients.

Hospital culture is notorious for the medical “code of silence”.

Patients are harmed by medical errors far more often than is ever reported. Nurses cover for dangerous doctors. Administrators go to great lengths to protect the staff from allegations of medical malpractice or negligence, citing fear of a lawsuit.

This culture of silence may be contributing to the cover-up of sexual abuse occurring in hospitals and other medical facilities.

Sexual abusers are likely to seek out places where they can be alone with vulnerable or incapacitated people.

It is not difficult or unusual for a medical provider to be alone with a patient, even in busy hospital emergency rooms.

When patients report a molestation or rape, they may be told it would be impossible for such a thing to have occurred with no witnesses.  The patient may discover that no one believes their word against an authority figure like a doctor. Or the patient can be talked into believing that the pain, stress or medication caused them to imagine the assault.

Some hospitals will go to great lengths to guard their reputations, even if it means that they fail to protect their patients.

Many facilities have large risk assessment departments that defend their staff, and help  insurance companies avoid taking care of victims.

These violent crimes are allowed to continue when the abuser is protected and enabled by the hospital.  Any hospital trying to protect their institutions against lawsuits by covering up sexual abuse claims are, in doing so,  allowing more of these crimes to occur – and opening themselves up to more lawsuits. Hospitals are sacred institutions and the caretakers of the most vulnerable among us.

Hospitals have an obligation to make their facilities safe.


  1. Gravatar for jc

    In my decades of working in hospitals, I have never ever seen sexual abuse of patients. As a male doctor, whenever I am in the room with a female patient, I have another female hospital employee in there for my protection against salacious allegations. 85% of hospital employees are female, it is like working in a high school gossip factory. There is no way you could ever make a pass at a female without half the hospital knowing about it by lunch. So I do not know how in the world prolonged sexual abuse in a hospital could ever occurr.

  2. Gravatar for Tom D'Amore

    Thank you for your comment. As I noted in my post, sexual assaults can and do occur in hospitals, but of course there are many hospitals where that crime would never be tolerated.

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