People have to place a lot of trust in the medical professionals that diagnose and treat their conditions. Unfortunately, some people use their position of medical authority inappropriately. Every licensed doctor must take the Hippocratic Oath. Physicians have a duty to do no harm first and foremost, as well as to act in the best interests of their patients.
Some doctors not only cause harm, but they use their position of social respect to attract and silence their victims. Hospitals, especially those serving vulnerable populations like veterans, should ensure that they make good hiring decisions and properly oversee the behavior of their staff members. They should also have reporting systems in place both for patients and staff members who suspect inappropriate behavior or medical malpractice.
Recently, the case from a VA hospital in West Virginia has made headlines as a doctor admitted to using his position at the hospital to abuse patients under his care.
Doctors have knowledge of the body that the average person does not. Patients usually implicitly trust their doctor when a physician recommends a specific course of treatment. In the case that recently took place in West Virginia, the orthopedic physician in question abused his patients while telling them his actions were part of legitimate care practices.
He pleaded guilty to pending charges stemming from the abuse of three specific patients. However, there is little question that many others experienced similar medical treatments that were anything but medical. A group of 44 VA patients has filed suit against the hospital because it failed to protect them.
Once a doctor does something that harms a patient, they may open themselves up to allegations of medical malpractice. Even in situations where the state cannot bring charges against the physician, the victims may be able to bring a civil suit against the doctor.
Additionally, if there is reason to believe that a hospital or other medical facility ignored the misconduct of staff members, it may also have liability for the damage caused. Those mistreated by doctors, as well as victims of medical mistakes, may have the right to seek compensation for the damage they suffered.