Tuesday, July 22, 2014

US hospital to pay $190m for filming patients

Beware of the doctor who has anything more than a stethoscope around his neck. Perhaps even that or a pen peeping prominently out of his shirt or jacket pocket.

Illustrative of the growing possibilities that technology particularly miniaturization of electronics provides for predatory sexual behavior, a top US hospital has agreed to pay $190 million to settle claims from thousands of women who may have been surreptitiously recorded during pelvic exams by a gynecologist who committed suicide subsequent to the expose.

The case centers on Dr Nikita Levy, a prominent and popular ob-gyn for 25 years at the Johns Hopkins Community Medicine system in Baltimore, who reportedly used a camera pen strung around his neck to secretly record women for years during examinations. A female colleague who got suspicious of his behavior eventually brought it to the notice of authorities.

Investigators confronted Dr Levy found more than 1,300 videos and images during searches of Levy's home and office, most of them recorded through pen cameras and key fobs, leading to his firing in February 2013. Ten days later, he committed suicide after writing an apology note to his wife and three children.

Hopkins has been dealing with the fall-out ever since, and on Monday, the hospital announced that it would pay $190 million one of the largest settlements involving sexual misconduct by a physician to settle the case.

More than 7,000 women are expected to receive compensation from the settlement. Although Levy examined more than 12,000 women during his career at Hopkins, he began his recording them only in 2005.

The women could not be identified from the images, which were mostly of genitalia, but attorneys involved in the case said all former patients could be considered victims because of the feeling of betrayal and trauma they felt by the invasion of doctor-patient confidentiality. Each plaintiff is expected to be evaluated by a team of professionals, including a psychiatrist, and placed into one of four categories, based on the degree to which they were affected.

"Many of our clients still feel a betrayal and lack of trust and have fallen out of the medical system," Jonathan Schochor, the lead attorney for the patients in the class-action lawsuit, told the Baltimore Sun. "They stopped seeing their doctors, they stopped taking their children to doctors. They refused to see male ob-gyns, or any ob-gyn. Their lives, needless to say, have been severely and negatively impacted."

In a statement, Hopkins said the settlement would be paid through its insurance policy and "will not in any way compromise the ability" of the health system to serve its patients, staff and community. "It is our hope that this settlement, and the findings by law enforcement that the images were not shared, helps those affected achieve a measure of closure," the hospital added.

Levy, a Jamaica-born New Yorker who was 54 at the time of his suicide, was a popular ob-gyn who practiced in the poorer precincts of Baltimore. According to the Sun, he had a reputation of going out of his way to assist patients, such as driving through snow-storms to deliver a patient's child.

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