Repeated Sexual Abuse By Physician in Hospital

Each Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at our firm was saddened to read last week about a string of cases involving intentional abuse by a physician of his child patients over a period of thirty years. Of course, virtually all Illinois medical malpractice cases in which we are involved stem not from intentional misconduct, but negligent actions by nurses, doctors, and others involved in the caregiving process. Yet, we’d be remiss if we failed to mention that the trust placed in these providers can also lead to intentional abuse, often with particularly disturbing consequences.

For example, UPI News recently discussed the latest legal wrangling involving the case of a doctor who apparently used his position to take illicit photographs of hundreds of children. It is a particularly grotesque case of abuse of the position of power given to medical professionals, particularly when it comes to the care and well-being of our children. Unfortunately, the doctor himself was never held accountable for his conduct, as he passed away before his actions were uncovered.

In fact, it was only a fluke that led to the discovery of the situation to begin with. The abuser apparently used his position as chief endocrinologist of a hospital to photograph 500 children without clothes on. He was able to do so under the false premise of conducting a “growth study.” He apparently stored the photos (totaling over 60,000) inside a false wall of his home. The doctor died in 1998 without anyone being made aware of the situation. Eventually another family bought the home in which he lived. The family accidentally stumbled upon the false wall and the photographs. They informed the local authorities.

The situation ultimately spurred at least sixty five different injury lawsuits filed by the victims of the sexual misconduct. The doctor was no longer around to be held accountable for this conduct, but the hospital that employed the man when he committed the crimes is accountable in a civil suit for their role in the matter. Recently, the hospital announced that at least seventeen of the cases may soon be settled. A tentative agreement was reached with those first set of victims. It will hopefully allow them to demand some accountability and move on.

However, as often happens in these situations, the insurance company which was covering the hospital at the time of the incident is working to limit its exposure. Essentially, the insurance company claims that the incident in question falls under the hospital’s medical malpractice liability coverage, instead of its general liability coverage. Each type of coverage has difference coverage amounts, with the total medical malpractice amount being lower. If the judge agrees that that the incident is related to medical malpractice, instead of general liability, then the insurance company may be spared payment of millions of dollars-perhaps at the expense of the injury victims. The judge will need to closely evaluate the terms of the insurance policy to make his ruling. However, on the face of the situation, it is unclear how the intentional sexual exploitation of children would fall under medical malpractice-which usually implies negligent care in the pursuit of medical remedies.

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