How Do Predatory Physicians Get Away With Their Crimes for Years or Decades?

Imagine All The Predators In PrisonWithout my knowledge or consent, a surgeon cut an approximately 2″ x 2″ piece of healthy tissue from my genitals while I was unconscious. This surprise disfigurement of my body caused deep and lasting harm. No unintentional deviation from a general standard of care, it was gross moral, ethical, and criminal misconduct. His was a premeditated act of deception intended to rob me of autonomy. 

Evidence shows this doctor is a known repeat offender. As in the infamous Earl Bradley case and too many others, the predatory physician typically gets away with their crimes for years, if not decades. Despite numerous complaints, authorities neglect to take appropriate action. The system protects the physician at great peril to his patients. 

More pathological than the previous predatory doctors exposed, the butcher-surgeon who cut me sexually assaults anesthetized women with sharp instruments, removing healthy tissue in a kind of female genital mutilation.

This is not a questionable “he said, she said” accusation. There is no doubt the offensive touching occurred. He took a piece of flesh and left me scarred. The record clearly shows I consented to two procedures and the surgeon performed four. This doctor is a predatory surgeon and must be stopped.

Due to institutional protections, sex offender Earl Bradley eluded investigators as colleagues called him the ‘pedophile pediatrician” for 15 years before he was stopped. This is the same reason the butcher-surgeon had the opportunity to premeditatively remove healthy tissue from my genitals. He was a known problem. When I cried spoke with a staffer about his gross and intentional violation of my bodily autonomy, she said, “I believe you,” which told me I was not the first. The nurse didn’t call it “The Dr. _____ Special” for nothing. [Doctor’s name omitted for my protection, not his.] How many repetitions does it take to build a reputation? My unofficial poll of a variety of healthcare workers says “a lot.”

As an anesthetized patient, I was completely at the mercy of the person operating on me and it turned out that person is a serial predator known as a problem in the organization. Why was he allowed to continue cutting on women?

According to a series of investigative reports by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, not surprisingly, predatory doctors typically operate unfettered for years or decades. This is not because nobody knows or complains, but simply because “administrators may be unwilling to rock the boat unless allegations of abuse are undeniable,” to the extent they will even threaten those who complain.

Hospitals have fiduciary incentives to protect the predatory physician above assuring patient safety.

This massive investigation exposed layers of protection that allow predatory doctors to get away with their crimes unfettered:

1. Golden Opportunities

Narcissists gravitate toward professions that guarantee plentiful and continuous provisions of narcissistic supply. 
“Doctors…often have golden opportunities to abuse that other abusers may not: a private examination or treatment room. Doctors may medicate a patient, which the patient accepts without question—only that “medication” may be a drug to render a patient unconscious or affect her memory. Other doctors sexually abuse patients while they are under anesthesia for a legitimate procedure.”

2.  Layers of Secrecy, Systemic Failure

“Layer upon layer of secrecy makes it nearly impossible for the public, or even the medical community itself, to know the extent of physician sexual abuse.” (“License to Betray; A broken system forgives sexually abusive doctors in every state, investigation finds,” by Carrie Teegardin, Danny Robbins, Jeff Ernsthausen and Ariel Hart, Atlanta Constitution Journal)

“’There is a web of protections in place within the profession and within the law so that this type of behavior can be detected and acted upon, and we allege that they have failed in every regard.’”  (“After Years of Sexual Abuse Allegations, How Did This Doctor Keep Working?” by Roni Caryn Rabin, The New York Times, Oct. 11, 2021)

3.  Predator Blindness 

“Institutions, governments, and individuals are greatly unaware of the existence of predatory personalities in medicine and in general.  A great lack of understanding exists regarding the depths of depravity a malignant narcissist can exhibit so these pathological behaviors often go unrecognized.” (How To Spot Narcissistic Doctors?” April 2013, in The Narcissist Life)

“Other doctors may not have so many victims, or so many willing to come forward, or be as well known. But they share one trait in common with Larry Nassar: a willingness to violate the ethics of their profession and harm innocent patients who trusted them.”(When Doctors Sexually Abuse Patients,” Huegli Fraser Law Firm)

“You can never assume that because you have a respected physician in the community that everybody thinks the world of, that person can’t do something terrible.” Jeffrey Fried, President and CEO of Beebe Healthcare after the Earl Bradly pedophile pediatrician case. (“A generation heals from Earl Bradley,” by Margie Fishman, The News Journal, September 15, 2007)

“‘One of the biggest scandals is just how often a person who offends, offends repeatedly, said James DuBois, a bioethicist at Washington University in St. Louis who helped develop recommendations for improving physician training and oversight.”  “License to Betray; A broken system forgives sexually abusive doctors in every state, investigation finds,” by Carrie Teegardin, Danny Robbins, Jeff Ernsthausen and Ariel Hart, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Predators are very convincing in the role of dedicated professionals. “They are also authoritative, assertive, and controlling. Their professions are merely covers, a means of concealing their dark sides. They seek to interact with people only from their position of authority, advantage, and perceived superiority. In this power position, they are able to elicit automatic admiration, adulation, and affirmation from patients–as well as nurses and staff– or failing that, their fear and obedience.” (Usha Nellore, in “Predatory physician case shows why patients must be vigilant,” The Baltimore Sun, FEB 22, 2013)

Malignant narcissists take pleasure in their aggression and sadism toward others. When they “view people as property the combination of sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism can be extremely dangerous…It most often leads to aggressive behavior and sometimes violence.” (5 Signs You’re Dealing With A Malignant Narcissist)

“Because of the perpetrator’s position, the victim may be even more likely to question whether…anyone will believe them if they tell…After all, many legitimate medical treatments may be uncomfortable or unpleasant, but necessary. Abusive doctors may take advantage of this fact, together with the patient’s trust in her physician, to both sexually abuse a patient and deny the patient’s experience of what happened,“(When Doctors Sexually Abuse Patients,” By Rhett Fraser, JD, January 31st, 2018).  As my attacker did when I confronted him.

When victims of Nassar came forward initially, “their claims were dismissed and victims were told…that the treatments had been medically sound.” (6 Reasons Why Abusers Like Larry Nassar Avoid Detection,” by Susan Sullivan, National Sexual Violence Resource Center, May 02, 2019)

4. Unwillingness to Admit Predatory Doctors Are Not Rare

We want to believe our healthcare system is safe for ourselves and our loved ones. We don’t want to believe some predators go into medicine because it gives them access to countless victims. 

With outright flouting of the law and dismissal of long-established medical ethics, “some doctors, especially male gynecologists, pediatricians and anesthesiologists and psychiatrists, have raped, fondled and molested patients of all ages.” (White Coat Betrayal: Ending Sexual Assault in Medicine,” by Sherry Ross, MD, US News, Jan. 24, 2018)

“A few physicians — with hundreds of victims — are among the nation’s worst sex offenders.” (License to Betray; A broken system forgives sexually abusive doctors in every state, investigation finds,” by Carrie Teegardin, Danny Robbins, Jeff Ernsthausen and Ariel Hart, Atlanta Constitution Journal)

“Serial predators raped or molested patients under the guise of conducting medical exams. Many abusers chose very vulnerable patients: children, the disabled, immigrants, those suffering from mental illnesses, those who were unconscious. Patients may be at their most vulnerable during intimate medical examinations, when their genitals are exposed…Some doctors exploited situations in which patients were unconscious or debilitated by drugs.” (“Repeat offenders often targeted vulnerable patients,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“Within the cohort of medical professionals, surgeons expressed significantly higher levels of narcissism.” (“Mirror mirror on the ward, who’s the most narcissistic of them all? Pathologic personality traits in health care,” published in Canadian Medical Association Journal, DEC 2018)

5. Layers of Protections

Colleagues and nurses stay silent, often out of fear of reprisal. 

Hospitals and health care organizations brush off accusations without reporting them to police or licensing agencies.
Physician-dominated medical boards gave offenders second chances. And third!

Prosecutors dismissed or reduced charges, so doctors could keep practicing and stay off sex offender registries. 

Communities rally around them.

The majority of physician misconduct goes unreported,” because “a majority of Americans do not know where to file a complaint against a physician,” according to the Federation of State Medical Boards

A. Institutional Protections

All major institutions protect predators with “a mashup of victim blaming, cover-up, stonewalling, retaliation, obstruction, obfuscation, and even golden parachutes for those in power most complicit in the network. ” (At The Heart Of The Gold: How ‘Predatory’ Institutions Covered Up Child Sexual Abuse Of USA Gymnastics,” by Shari Karney at “Roar as One,” June 17, 2019)

They minimize or ignore complaints from colleagues, nurses, and patients.

Some actively discourage employees from taking it further or even make threats.

“Private agreements, along with legal loopholes and outright flouting of the law, are among the reasons the nationwide repository — the National Practitioner Data Bank — can leave patients and medical staff vulnerable…even when hospitals and medical boards file reports, they may classify violations in a way that conceals the scope of physician sexual misconduct on the very limited portion of the data bank available to the public.” (Dangerous doctors, flawed data, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“Doctors who sexually abuse patients go to therapy and then return to practice.” (“Patients violated, doctors rehabilitated,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

According to the AJC report, “if a doctor is providing a benefit to the organization for which he works, administrators may be unwilling to rock the boat unless allegations of abuse are undeniable.” In which case, the organization values the predator’s freedom to prey on patients far above patient safety. It does, in effect, feed him his victims. 

B. Cultural Protections

Culprits know they can rely on social forces to give them cover.

Predators do what they do because they think they can get away with it. We give them that security, with our big, bloated bureaucracies” (“Predatory physician case shows why patients must be vigilant,” by Usha Nellore, The Baltimore Sun, February 22, 2013)

The public is repeatedly fooled by these predators because of social and cultural conditioning and naivete. 

In many of these cases, nobody believed the victims. Everyone believed the doctor. 

When patients do tell of their abuse, those to whom they report it may be unwilling to destroy the career of a “good doctor” over “unproven allegations.” (When Doctors Sexually Abuse Patients,” By Rhett Fraser, JD, Hugel Fraser Law, January 31, 2018)

C. Regulatory Agency Inaction

“Decades of complaints that the physician disciplinary system is too lenient on sex-abusing doctors have produced little change in the practices of state medical boards.” (“AP investigation: Doctors keep licenses despite sex abuse”, by Associated Press, Apr 14, 2018)

“Even when hospitals and medical boards file reports, they may classify violations in a way that conceals the scope of physician sexual misconduct on the very limited portion of the data bank available to the public.”  (“Dangerous doctors, flawed data,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“Police can be so convinced that a doctor committed sex crimes that they charge and book him, ready for prosecutors to take him to trial. But that might not be enough to sway state medical regulators, tasked with protecting the public, to prevent a doctor from seeing more patients while criminal charges are pending, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution discovered in a review of disciplinary cases involving sexual misconduct.” (“Under arrest, yet seeing patients,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution )

“Of the 253 doctors reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank for having been sanctioned by their respective hospitals or health care organizations for sexual misconduct, or paid a settlement that stemmed from such an allegation, 170 of them, almost 70%, were not disciplined by state medical boards, even though all boards have access to the reports filed with the data bank.” (“AP investigation: Doctors keep licenses despite sex abuse”, by Associated Press, Apr 14, 2018)

D. State Law Protects Perpetrators

“In most states, patients will have a difficult time finding out if their doctors have been disciplined for sexual abuse or other violations. And no state provides complete and accurate information on every doctor. Some obstacles to that are intentional. They are the result of state laws that tie regulators’ hands, agreements negotiated with doctors’ attorneys, or concerns about harming a doctor’s practice. Other obstacles reflect a lack of resources or carelessness.” (“Gaps, Cloaks, and Barriers,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Legal loopholes and intentional safeguards prevent prosecution. 

“State laws tie regulators’ hands or are ignored out of concerns about harming a doctor’s practice.  (“Gaps, Cloaks, and Barriers,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

A number of Delaware attorneys told me that, although I have a valid non-consent complaint they could not represent me because the settlement would not cover the attorney’s fees. The law is set up this way on purpose. There is no viable legal recourse for non-catastrophic medical malpractice in Delaware. It’s as if serious medical errors and intentional harm don’t exist. The people who built and benefit from the power structure protect themselves and each other from inroads of truth, accountability, and justice. 

E. Court System Favors the Privileged

Survivors are tortured by inept legal proceedings designed to conceal instead of reveal truth and their voices silenced.

The criminal court system operates not under the cold, calculated order visible in legal codes and on-the-record filings, but on a network of relationships, collegial and political, shaping negotiations in private rooms, sometimes at the expense of victims. In a state court system where more than 90% of criminal cases end with plea bargains, the debates and decisions outside the courtroom often carry more weight than the motions, affidavits, and transcripts that the public sees. The result is a two-tiered system of justice that favors those connected to the network. – “A Doctor Admitted To Sexually Abusing Patients And Then Walked Free by Albert Samaha, BuzzFeed News, June 5, 2018

F. The American Medical Association (AMA)

The American Medical Association…”does not favor the automatic revocation of the medical license of every doctor who commits sexual abuse of a patient. It does not expel every offender from its membership rolls. It has never independently researched the prevalence of sexual abuse in clinical settings. Twenty-six years ago it declared sexual misconduct a breach of medical ethics, but since then it has remained all but mute on the issue.” (“Condemnation without action,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

6. Patients Stand Alone

Victims face tremendous barriers to coming forward. “They fear not being believed and being blamed in addition to the shame and trauma of their experience.” (6 Reasons Why Abusers Like Larry Nassar Avoid Detection,” by Susan Sullivan, National Sexual Violence Resource Center, May 02, 2019) Patients know the system is against them.

Result:

“The result is a violation of trust, physical and emotional trauma, and a sense of being violated again when a woman works up the courage to disclose her abuse and is not believed. Some women stop seeking medical care because the mere experience of being in a medical setting is traumatizing.” (“When Doctors Sexually Abuse Patients,” Huegli Fraser Law Firm)

“To be violated while in a vulnerable state is highly traumatic, whether registered consciously by a person or unconsciously at the level of procedural memory…Your body can remember things that happen to it while unconscious…Such traumas can be stored in the body for many years and are now known to be correlated with long-term physical and mental health problems, including anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sexual dysfunction.”  (The Number of Doctors Getting Away with Sexual Abuse Will Shock You,” by Macaela Mackenzie, Women’s Health, JUL 7, 2016)

Some patients develop Medical PTSD and “stop seeking medical care because the mere experience of being in a medical setting is traumatizing.” (When Doctors Sexually Abuse Patients,” Huegli Fraser Law Firm)

The betrayal of predatory sexual assault from doctors “even pushed some to suicide.” (License to Betray; A broken system forgives sexually abusive doctors in every state, investigation finds,” by Carrie Teegardin, Danny Robbins, Jeff Ernsthausen and Ariel Hart, Atlanta Constitution Journal)

“Deviants who hide behind the label of caring professionals are the most maniacal and psychologically destructive to women. We need to work together, change the culture and make it stop.” (“White Coat Betrayal: Ending Sexual Assault in Medicine,” by Sherry Ross, MD, US News, Jan. 24, 2018)

Q: What is the main factor in how predatory doctors get away with exploiting patients for years? 

A: The complicit silence and inaction of administrators.

The silence is over. The time of undeniability has come. Police report filed.

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