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Sexual Abuse By University Medical Professionals

  • July 11, 2019
  • KBA Attorneys
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Over the past few years, the nation has seen numerous instances of medical professionals sexually abusing their patients. Oftentimes, this includes college campus doctors who take advantage of students who are unaware of the abuse or feel uncomfortable reporting the incident. Even though the #MeToo movement has aided in increasing awareness of these violations of trust and medical ethics, it is crucial that every individual is able to discern lawful from unlawful medical practice.

In a medical setting, make sure that you are knowledgeable of what to expect when scheduling an appointment. Nevertheless, if there is something that makes you uncomfortable during your examination, you have the right to leave at any time. Moreover, you can ask for a trusted individual to be in the same room during your examination. If you are not with a family member or a friend, you can even ask a nurse to stay with you.

The #MeToo movement started with allegations made against Harvey Weinstein, but this movement spread to university settings, ultimately illuminating the alleged behavior of ex-UCLA gynecologist James Heaps.

Dr. James Heaps

A former gynecologist, Dr. James Heaps, of the University of California, Los Angeles, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually abusing two patients. One of his two counts was sexual harassment by fraud and the other one was of sexual exploitation of a patient.

The allegations against the doctor were extremely disturbing and shocking, especially considering that Heaps had been a fixture at UCLA Health, the university’s medical center. He worked there as a physician for over 30 years from 1983 to 2010. Chancellor Gene Block, as well as Vice Chancellor John Mazziotta, said in a statement that they were “…deeply sorry that a former UCLA physician violated our policies and standards, our trust and the trust of his patients.” 

The charges against Heaps were somewhat similar to allegations against another campus gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall of the University of Southern California (USC).

Dr. Dennis Kelly

Dr. George Tyndall is not the only University of Southern California doctor who has recently been accused of sexually abusing his patients. One of its men’s health medical practitioners, Dr. Dennis Kelly, also faced allegations of inappropriate sexual misconduct.

Kelly denied the allegations and shared how the statements were “terribly hurtful.” He even told Los Angeles Times that he never second-guessed or questioned anything he had done to any of his patients. He knew for a fact that he acted professionally without any ulterior motive.

Kelly is alleged to have only targeted gay and bisexual male students. His allegations included unnecessary rectal examinations that are intrusive, watching and forcing patients to get undressed in front of him, refusing to allow patients to wear a robe during examinations, using derogatory language towards bisexual patients and gay patients, as well as making inappropriate comments about their bodies, sexual orientation, and sexual activities as he conducted their examinations, and shaming men for engaging in sexual acts with other men.

USC released a statement in response to the continuing rise of alleged sexual practices by health personnel within the university. They stated that they were aware of the lawsuit and were “concerned by its allegations.” They also mentioned how they are currently working on understanding the facts of the matter. According to the university, they care about the LGBTQ community and the entire Trojan family.

Dr. Carl Renner

Sexual abuse and assault extends outside of college campuses and often occurs in general medical practices. A recent incident involves Carl Renner, a doctor who performed medical practice in Hasbrouck Heights. He was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting two female patients at his Boulevard medical office. They were only routine visits, but many signs of sexual assault were evident.

The 66-year-old New Jersey doctor was charged with second-degree sexual assault on a female patient. The patient reported the alleged incident to police on June 3rd and on June 14th, Renner was charged with two more counts of second-degree sexual assault involving a different female patient. This patient claimed Renner sexually assaulted her once between May and September 2016 and once again on May 30, 2019. 

Renner denies the sexual assault claims but has agreed to the temporary suspension of his medical license while the criminal charges are pending. He is required to stop all medical services, prohibited from prescribing medications, and is banned from his former medical practice during business hours. 

Research Examination Norms Before an Appointment

It is crucial that during routine medical visits, every patient should be aware of the things an examiner is allowed to do, especially with pelvic, breast, rectal, vaginal, or testis examinations. Since patients may not be aware of typical medical processes, certain sexual acts may initially go unnoticed. Before seeing a medical professional, find out what is typical for the type of examination being scheduled. 

Regardless, it is good advice to trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable with the situation, with what the doctor is doing, or even what you are being asked to do, you have the right to stop the examination. It’s never okay for a medical examiner to stop you from asking questions or tell you to remain quiet at all times. Moreover, when examining private areas, it is important for the medical professional to always wear gloves. The doctor should also explain to you what they are doing at all times. They must not force you to do anything that you are not willing to participate in.

We cannot stress this enough; every patient has the right to decline or refuse anything that makes them uncomfortable.

Warning Signs of Doctor Sexual Abuse

Patients may not understand how a particular medical process is performed, so it is crucial to ask questions and speak up whenever something feels appropriate. You have the right to ask your medical examiner what they are doing and how it can contribute to your overall well-being.

If you are unsure of whether or not you are being sexually assaulted, read on to discover a few things a medical examiner is not entitled to do.

  • Ask you questions about your current sexual acts that may make you uncomfortable
  • Insist that you do something that you are not willing to do, such as undress certain body parts that are not part of the examination
  • Decline your request to bring another person into the exam room
  • Refuse to explain a medical process
  • Examine certain body parts without using medical gloves
  • Refuse to answer questions
  • Tell you to be quiet during the examination or procedure

These are just some of the warning signs to look out for. If you have been sexually abused by a medical professional, KBA Attorneys are here to help you.

College Student Sexual Abuse Lawyers

With sexual assault, harassment, and abuse, it is important to note that victims can only recover the monetary damages for the psychological and emotional harm that they have suffered. We understand that no amount of money can take back the traumatic experiences that victims have endured, but we will use every legal recourse available to bring justice to those who have suffered such afflictions. Cases of this nature are extremely sensitive, which is why we provide confidential legal services. Our sexual abuse lawyers will do their best to help clients achieve maximum compensation.

College students who believe they have been sexually abused by a campus doctor can contact us to speak with our legal team.


CBS News. “Ex-UCLA gynecologist Dr. James Heaps pleads not guilty to sexually abusing 2 patients”, CBS News, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/former-ucla-gynecologist-dr-james-heaps-charged-with-sexually-abusing-patients-today-2019-06-10/. Accessed July 8, 2019.

City News Services. “More Plaintiffs Added to Lawsuit Alleging Misconduct by USC Doctor”, NBC Los Angeles, https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Lawsuit-Alleging-Misconduct-by-USC-Doctor-509708931.html. Accessed July 8, 2019.

Keldy Ortiz and Tom Nobile. “Hasbrouck Heights doctor charged with sexually assaulting patient during office visit”, North Jersey Record, https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/crime/2019/06/10/hasbrouck-heights-nj-doctor-carl-renner-arrested-and-charged-sexual-assault/1409143001/. Accessed July 8, 2019.