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The Problem of Sexual Abuse in Medical Facilities

  • February 19, 2019
  • KBA Attorneys
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The sexual abuse of patients in nursing homes and other medical facilities has become a serious problem that does not only affect the elderly. Those who believe that their elderly or infirmed relatives who have suffered from such mistreatment do have legal recourse, but will need proper representation to ensure that a case is pursued in the correct manner.

The Prevalence of Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

Several high-profile cases of patient abuse in the United States have recently received considerable media attention. In one case, a 61-year-old patient at a facility in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., who was recovering from heart surgery, was relegated to using hand gestures to indicate that she had been assaulted by a staff member.

In New York City, an emergency room doctor plead guilty to sexually abusing four patients at the same hospital. One of the victims was reportedly immobilized with an anesthetic before she was assaulted. The physician was given a two-year sentence in state prison.

In Phoenix, a 29-year-old patient under 24-hour care gave birth in her nursing home bed without the staff even realizing that she was pregnant. A 36-year-old nurse who was determined by DNA testing to be the father of the infant was later charged with the abuse of a vulnerable patient, among other charges.

Identifying Those Responsible for Acts of Abuse

A federal government report cited more than 1,000 cases in which nursing homes either failed to prevent acts of sexual abuse or in some ways mishandled the cases. The abuse of patients in nursing homes can be carried out by visitors, by regular staff members or, as proven by the case in New York City, by specialized health care professionals. One psychologist who analyzed the problem believes that such assaults represent a type of fetishistic behavior that is similar to necrophilia, which involves sexual activity with the dead. In both cases, the offender has total control over another person’s body. This becomes an exertion of power while, at the same time, fulfills the offender’s fantasy. Significantly, many of these acts occur during night shifts or early in the morning, when visitors are few and the facility staff is smaller.

What to Do About Nursing Home Abuse

Family members and others can take certain steps to protect patients from acts of abuse. Facility ratings can be used to confirm reports of complaints or fines. They should also look for well-staffed nursing homes, which usually provide higher levels of care. Additionally, there should be a careful review of the supervision available and how a particular nursing home checks the work histories of its employees. A simple visit to a facility should reveal shortcomings in certain areas, which can point to shortcomings in general.

Regardless of their age, nursing home patients should expect the best possible treatment. Cases of sexual abuse should not be tolerated and require legal intervention. Patients and their families can find the legal assistance they need from the law firm of KBA Attorneys. Fill out our online application or contact us today for a case evaluation.