Those in the medical field such as doctors, chiropractors, and physical therapists spend a lot of time hands-on with their patients, but taking an examination too far can quickly evolve to charges of sexual abuse.
Chiropractor accused of groping female patients
A Utah chiropractor was charged on Monday with sexual abuse of his female clients. 56 year old Dale Heath has had a Utah license to practice chiropractic care since May of 1995. Starting just a few years ago in 2011, Allegations began to surface against Heath for inappropriately touching female clients around their groin area.
Following an investigation into the sexual abuse allegations, Heath was put on probation in September of 2014. The probation came with an agreement that his female clients must always be accompanied by a chaperone and that Heath must discuss the medical details prior to any contact near a female’s groin area. These stipulations were in place for less than 6 months when another alleged victim of sexual abuse came forward.
Should the chaperone be at fault?
With more allegations surfacing, investigators interviewed Heath and those who were supposed to be a second person in the room when he was attending female patients. They discovered that the chaperones had been fraudulently signing the logs without actually being present with Heath and the patient. Those responsible for being a chaperone let not only the patient down, but also the chiropractor for whom they were to be observing. Since Heath was unaccompanied with his patients, it is unknown what his motives were. Those chaperones failed to be present, and now the only evidence the authorities have is the word of the patient.
Sexual abuse or legitimate technique
A high majority of the population feels uncomfortable going to any type of professional in the medical field. When the medical professional’s job is very hands-on such as: a chiropractor, physical therapist, masseuse, or gynecologist; this can make the patient even more uneasy. Often, examinations and treatments can feel invasive, when they are not intended to be. One of these “invasive” techniques is known as Internal Pelvic Floor Work. This invasive therapy is performed by physical therapists and chiropractors just like Heath. As the name states, the work (or adjustment) is done in the pelvic region. It can be helpful with patients that suffer with urinary problems, women’s health issues, and even prostate problems for men. While it is not documented that consent for an invasive technique was given to Heath, the probability for gray areas are existent regarding sexual abuse in the medical field.
Prevention for sexual abuse in the medical field
There’s a fine line between what is okay and what is not for medical professionals. To protect the patient from sexual abuse and the medical practitioner from false allegations, there are steps to help prevent uncertainty or uncomfortable situations.
• Just like the scout rule of “two deep”, a medical practitioner should always be accompanied by a nurse or assistant if a patient comes to the appointment without their own chaperone.
• Communication between doctor and patient. The doctor should always inform his patients of the medical examination or procedure before any physical contact. It is also important for patients to let the medical professional know if they feel uncomfortable, instead of waiting to report it as sexual abuse later.
• Routine psycho-sexual evaluations should be performed on all medical professionals to help prevent sexual abuse before it begins.
• Other doctors practicing in the same clinic or office should be legally obligated to report any suspicious behavior of one of their colleagues since they would know what a routine examination is and what crosses the line.
Although sexual abuse in the medical field is fairly uncommon, with the majority of cases against those in the mental health area, those practicing any medicine should safeguard their practice against allegations of sexual abuse of other misconduct. For those facing charges, counsel with a criminal defense attorney is recommended.